PROGRESSIVE groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) marched to the US Embassy last September 16 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Philippine Senate’s rejection of the extension of the Philippine-United States of America Military Bases Agreement and to support “President Rodrigo Duterte’s independent foreign policy.”
The protest celebrated the 1991 rejection by 12 senators of the agreement despite great pressure exerted by then President Corazon Aquino to the Senate to extend the treaty.
The activists also condemned the current Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which they say allow American troops to treat the Philippine as their “playground.”
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr said the VFA and EDCA signed by the US and subsequent Philippine administrations allow offending US troops to escape punishment for their criminal activities in the Philippines.
The Manila District of the Philippine National Police tried to prevent the protesters from reaching Roxas Boulevard but were outwitted when the march split in two and rushed past the hastily assembled police line.
‘No longer a colony’
Duterte had previously emphasized his government’s pursuit of an independent foreign policy from the US.
He recently called out US President Barack Obama on the latter’s reported intention to bring up the issue of human rights violations at their planned meeting in Laos last week.
Duterte also called on US troops to leave Mindanao.
He said he will not allow the US to further meddle into the country’s political and military affairs as it has yet to acknowledge and apologize for atrocities in Mindanao.
Duterte mentioned the massacres of Moros at Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak during the US occupation of the Philippines which killed thousands of civilians.
Bayan challenged Duterte to take the matter of foreign policy beyond words.
“We support Duterte’s call for the withdrawal of US troops from Mindanao. However, he must go further if he truly wants to pursue an independent foreign policy,” Reyes said.
The group issued a list of demands for a Philippine independent foreign policy, namely:
- Overturn laws and agreements allowing US troops to stay in the Philippines, specifically the EDCA signed by Benigno Aquino III;
- End joint military exercises with the US;
- Stop the country’s dependence on second-hand but expensive military equipment from the US;
- Probe US’s role in the botched Mamasapano incident in 2015 that resulted in the death of 44 Filipino Special Action Force members;
- Assert Philippine sovereignty against any US intervention; and
- Denouncing American-led wars of intervention. # (Report by AL Ayroso / Featured image by Divine C. Miranda)