25 years of the VFA: Surrender of sovereignty, increased military intervention, and grossly unequal relations

by Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

May 27, 2024 marks 25 years of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement. The VFA is the legal framework for the treatment of US military personnel “temporarily” in the Philippines for various “approved” activities. More importantly, it is among the many unequal military agreements imposed by the US on the Philippines from the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the 1947 Military Assistance Pact and the 1947 Military Bases Agreement. After the VFA, the US would also impose the 2002 Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) and the 2013 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). These agreements are important pillars of continuing imperialist domination of the Philippines as a US neo-colony.

After the RP-US Military Bases Agreement ended in 1991, and the Philippine Senate rejecting a new bases treaty, thousands of US troops in the major bases in Clark and Subic were effectively removed from the Philippines. But this was only for a short time, as the US sought to regain its military foothold on Philippine soil. The Ramos regime negotiated with the US a Status of Forces Agreement and and Acquisition and Cross-servicing Agreement (SOFA-ACSA). The negotiations matured into what is now the VFA, signed during the Estrada regime and ratified by the Senate on May 27, 1999 amid widespread protests.

The VFA covers the treatment of erring US troops “visiting” the Philippines. It deals with issues of jurisdiction, custody and what happens when an American soldier is convicted. While it was being deliberated, proponents of the VFA said that the agreement would modernize the AFP, help improve our defense capacity and address security issues.

During the Senate ratification of the VFA in 1999, Bayan had warned that the proposed treaty would lead to the return of US bases in the Philippines and that the pact was an affront to our national sovereignty. The VFA allows the entry of an unlimited number of US troops, engaged in unspecified activities, deployed in unspecified areas, for an unlimited duration of time. The “unli” character of the VFA was intentional as it sought to give the widest latitude for the actual stationing of US troops on Philippine soil even without a formal basing agreement.

The US claims that there are no troops permanently stationed in the Philippines because under a rotational deployment, a batch of US troops would be in the Philippines for only a few months, and then replaced by another batch of US troops. Even if rotational, the reality is that there is not a day when there are no US troops present in the Philippines. Furthermore, the Philippine government has no means to determine if US troops are not permanently stationed in the Philippines because US forces do not go through regular immigration procedures.

The VFA does not specify the activities US troops may engage in. This has resulted in US troops participating in counter-insurgency operations in active war zones.

Since the VFA does not specify how many US troops can enter the Philippines, thousands of US troops have engaged in large-scale war games in the country. The large-scale war games are a form of power projection, a show of force by the US aimed at its rivals in the region.

Because the VFA was purposely vague as to the scale and duration of US military presence in the country, some 500-600 US Special Forces personnel under Joint Special Operations Task Force- Philippines were permanently stationed in Mindanao after 2002.

Unlike the RP-US Military Bases Agreement, the VFA does not specify the areas where US troops may “visit” and conduct activities. It opens the entire country to US war games and makes the Philippines a military outpost of a foreign superpower. Unlike the RP-US MBA, the VFA has no expiry date, and is in effect indefinitely unless one party notifies the other of its intent to terminate the agreement.

The VFA exempts US forces from passport and visa requirements. US vessels and aircraft are also exempted from paying landing or port fees, navigation or overflight charges, or tolls or other use charges, including light and harbor dues. Philippine authorities cannot conduct quarantine inspection of US vessels to ensure there are no quarantinable diseases present. The Philippines likewise cannot inspect US vessels and aircraft that are possibly carrying nuclear weapons.

To further highlight the gross inequality between the US and the Philippines, the VFA was ratified by the Philippine Senate as a treaty, but was not ratified as such by the US Senate. It was merely considered a treaty through a certification by the US embassy. This goes against the constitutional provision that “foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate… and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.’

The VFA epitomizes the grossly unequal relations between the US and the Philippines, cementing our status as a US neo-colony and tying our foreign policy to US imperialist interests and dictates.

Permanent presence and direct combat involvement

After the 9-11 attacks, the US embarked on its “global war on terror”, invading Afghanistan and Iraq, causing massive death and destruction. The US then labeled the Philippines as the “second front” in the “war on terror” and for the first time, US troops conducted large-scale military exercises in provinces like Basilan and Sulu, supposedly against the Abu Sayyaf. Some 1,300 US forces would be initially deployed in areas where they would be involved in armed hostilities.

As the International Solidarity Mission in 2002 found out, US forces joined combat patrols supposedly against the Abu Sayyaf, resulting in the shooting in Basilan of Buyong-buyong Isnijal by a US solider during a raid on Isnijal’s house. The government claimed Isnijal, who was also arrested, was a suspected Abu Sayyaf member.

The “war on terror” in the Philippines was called “Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines” and was used to justify the stationing of 500- 600 US Special Forces personnel in Mindanao for a period of at least 14 years. For the first time since US bases were kicked out, the US military had a permanent foothold on the Philippines even without a basing agreement. The VFA was used as the legal framework for this permanent military presence. In his visit to the Philippines in February 2023, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin went to Camp Navarro in Zamboanga to visit some 100 US soldiers stationed there – proof that the US military never left Mindanao after first arriving in 2002.

US forces were involved in the the botched Mamasapano operation in 2015 that resulted in the death of 44 Filipino SAF troopers as well as Filipino civilians and in the destruction of Marawi in 2017 during operations against the Maute group.

In the Mamasapano incident, at least 6 Americans were involved in the planning, training, intelligence gathering, and in the execution of the mission. At least one of the Americans tried to give orders to Filipino commanders during the operation. When the target of the operation Jukifli Marwan was killed, proof of his death was given to the American FBI waiting in General Santos City, and not to Philippine authorities. This incident exposes who are really calling the shots in these so-called joint operations with the US forces.

In the Marawi Siege of 2017, the US provided aerial surveillance and targeting, electronic eavesdropping and communications assistance during the operations. Marawi was flattened as a result of sustained military operations by the AFP with support from the US.

There would be other documented instances where US operations led to the deaths of Filipino civilians. There were no criminal liabilities in the deaths resulting from these operations.

In February 4, 2008, US forces were said to be embedded in an AFP unit that conducted a military operation in Maimbung, Sulu that resulted in the deaths of seven civilians. This included two children, two teenagers, a pregnant woman and an off-duty soldier. This incident was documented by the Commission on Human Rights.

On April 18, 2012, a US boat from the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) collided with a local fishing vessel killing one fisherman and injuring another.

On January 17, 2013, the USS Guardian ran aground in the Tubbataha Reef, a protected area and UNESCO World Heritage Site, causing damage to the coral reef. After public outrage, the US was forced to pay $1.97 million for the damage its ship caused.

Criminal cases

The VFA became even more controversial when its provisions on jurisdiction and custody were tested in actual criminal cases. These cases again highlighted the gross inequality between the US and the Philippines as special treatment were accorded the erring US soldiers.

In the Subic rape case of 2005, US Marine Daniel Smith was charged with rape, but for the duration of the trial, was held in the US embassy, not in a Philippine facility. Upon his conviction, he was brought to the Makati City Jail but was later on transferred back to the US embassy on the grounds that his conviction was still under appeal. This was done under the Romulo-Kenney Accord which was later on struck down by the Supreme Court. The SC however did not order the immediate transfer of Smith to the Makati City Jail and merely asked the DFA and the US embassy to negotiate a appropriate detention facility based on provisions of the VFA. The complainant in the rape case would later recant her testimony and move to the US, while Smith would be acquitted by the Court of Appeals and released from his detention facility at the US embassy. It was believed that the complainant was pressured to recant her testimony.

The VFA would be invoked again in the murder of transwoman Jennifer Laude in 2014, with US serviceman Joseph Scott Pemberton being charged with murder. Laude was found drowned to death leaning on a toilet bowl. The US sought to take custody of Pemberton even if he was being charged in a Philippine court — in what was another affront to our sovereignty. Pemberton could no longer be held in the US embassy after the SC ruling on Smith, and was instead held at the US-controlled JUSMAG facility inside Camp Aguinaldo.

After his conviction for homicide, Pemberton was held in a special jailhouse in the ISAFP compound in Camp Aguinaldo, constructed especially for him by the US embassy. In September 2020, Pemberton would be granted absolute pardon by then president Rodrigo Duterte. This follows an earlier phone conversation between Duterte and then US president Donald Trump over the issue of the VFA termination, COVID vaccines and US military aid.

Duterte earlier threatened to terminate the VFA but later withdrew the termination after the US promised more military aid and possibly COVID vaccines.

Sham modernization

The VFA was touted as key to the AFP’s modernization as its ratification provided the incentive for the US to focus military aid to the Philippines. The modernization of the AFP and the presence of the US in the country, were seen as deterrents to foreign aggression especially from rising power China.

The technical and logistical benefits from the Balikatan and the VFA are small, as admitted by some military officials. Former Commodore Rex Robles has described these benefits as being in the “nice to have” category. Navy whistleblower Lt. Sg. Nancy Gadian meanwhile says the benefits are limited to the use of firearms and night-vision goggles. The high-end equipment are exclusively used by the US and are not transferred to the Philippine military.

What the Philippines receives in bulk are Excess Defense Articles. The EDAs are second-hand or antiquated military equipment which cannot be considered as indispensable for the Philippines. The Federation of American Scientists in an article said that “not wanting to pay the costs of storing or destroying the surplus, the (US) Department of Defense dispenses most of it for free or at deep reduction through the excess defense articles (EDA) program.” Receiving EDA’s will not modernize the AFP. This was true during the time of the US bases, and this remains true today. Among the ships procured by the Philippines in 2011 was a decommissioned Hamilton-class cutter from the Vietnam War era, later named as BRP Gregorio del Pilar. Ironic, considering that del Pilar died fighting the American colonizers as he defended Tirad Pass.

After 25 years of the VFA, the Philippines had not developed a credible external defense posture. It is in the interest of the US to keep the AFP backward and dependent on US military surplus, because this provides the US added leverage to dictate policies on the Philippines. The existence of the VFA also did not prevent China from taking control of Scarborough Shoal in 2012.

What is true is that US military aid is used to commit widespread human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law in course of the Philippine government’s counter-insurgency drive. US military aid funds state terrorism, carried out through the US-inspired counter-insurgency and counter-terror programs under a so-called whole-of-nation approach.

Photo by Davao Today.

US VFA led to EDCA and other VFA’s

With the VFA allowing permanent US military presence in the Philippines, the US would now need a legal framework for the construction of facilities that would serve as bases for the US troops. On April 28, 2014, the US and the Philippines signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which they claimed was an implementation of the MDT and the VFA, and thus did not require Senate ratification.

The executive agreement allowed the construction of US military facilities, use of existing Philippine military and civilian facilities and the prepositioning of weapons in these facilities. As in US war games, access to and control over weapons, equipment and facilities are exclusively with the US as Philippine troops are reduced to being perimeter guards of the US bases.

The VFA and EDCA taken together complete the requirements for the return of US bases and permanent US military presence in the Philippines. US justification for their presence here have also evolved through the year. In the 50’s it was the “Cold War, in the 2000s the “war on terror and now the threats from China. What is certain is that the drive for permanent US military presence has more to do with defending US national security and economic interests more than anything.

After the US VFA, American allies and junior partners have sought to secure the same type of agreement to allow their military to join US-led war games. The Philippines now has a VFA with Australia, ratified in 2007. Japan is seeking a similar VFA which it hopes to negotiate this year. And just recently, France said it would also be seeking a VFA so its troops can participate in military activities in this part of the world. The Philippines will become the playground and laboratory of foreign troops seeking to expand imperialist interests in Asia, which are not at all identical with Philippine national interests.

Continuing opposition

Bayan and various progressive groups have waged a consistent opposition to the VFA throughout its 25-year existence. We have called for the abrogation of the VFA and all unequal military agreements including the MDT and the EDCA. Our perpetual dependence on the US has made us backward and underdeveloped. The benefits from these agreements are grossly one-sided – in favor of the US imperialist agenda of becoming a Pacific power. There is no other just option but to scrap these agreements.

The US motive for the VFA is no different from the US motive in supporting Israel’s genocide in Gaza, or US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq in Libya. The US is an imperialist monster bent on imposing its interests on oppressed nations and people’s of the world. The VFA and US military presence here will never be benevolent, and will never be without major social costs including human rights violations, environmental destruction (Tubbataha incident) and prostitution.

The world has seen what US militarism has done in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, LIbya, Vietnam and in the US proxy war in Ukraine. The US is provoking more conflict here in Asia through its rivalry with China. Anywhere the US is involved, there is always war and conflict. The VFA is part of the US preparation for war.

The VFA has taught us that Philippine sovereignty can only be upheld by Filipinos, not by any foreign government, and that our national interests are not identical to US imperialist interests. There is no mutual benefit nor mutual interests between an imperialist superpower and its neo-colony. Now more than ever, oppressed peoples from Palestine to the Philippines, must stand up to stop the US war machine. Junk the VFA, uphold national soverignty and fight for genuine freedom against US imperialism. #

Makabayan solon, DND condemn Chinese envoy’s threat against OFWs in Taiwan

A Makabayan solon and the Department of National Defense (DND) separately condemned an alleged threat made by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian against Filipinos in Taiwan.

House of Representative Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro said Huang’s statement is a threat and an imposition on a sovereign country.

“It is condemnable that China seems to be issuing a threat not just against the Philippines as a country but to innocent overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were obligated to work abroad to create better lives for their families,” Castro said in a statement Saturday, April 15.

In a public speech Friday, the Chinese envoy said, the “Philippines is advised to unequivocally oppose Taiwan independence rather than stoking the fire by offering the US access to the military bases near the Taiwan Strait if you care genuinely about the 150,000 OFWs.”

“The Taiwan question is entirely China’s internal affair, as is the Mindanao issue to the Philippines. You will never allow any third party to meddle with resolving rebel issues in Mindanao,” Huang said.

This did not sit well with the progressive solon who said Huang’s statement must be condemned.

The DND in a separate statement took exception to Huang’s assertion the Philippines is “meddling” in Chinese internal affairs concerning Taiwan.

DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the Philippines’ primary concern regarding the heated situation between China and Taiwan are the expatriate Filipinos in the island.

Pique at new EDCA sites

While it appears to directly threaten Filipino workers in Taiwan, Huang’s speech was in fact obviously directed at the Philippine government’s decision to open four new military sites the for United States military to be closer to China.

“Obviously, the US intends to take advantage of the new EDCA sites to interfere in the situation across the Taiwan strait to serve its geopolitical goals, and advance its anti-China agenda at the expense of peace and development of the Philippines and the region at large,” Huang said.

The Chinese Ambassador also likened the situation in Taiwan to Mindanao, implying that China does not meddle with Moro independence struggles in Southern Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

On more US troops deployment in the Philippines

“The US is becoming more aggressive now in sending cadres to oversee the military of its allies and neo-colonies is no accident. What we are seeing is both an aggressive economic thrust in the form of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and a military show of force in the region, which most recently involved Japan in a security triad with the US and the Philippines.”—Clarice Palce, GABRIELA secretary general

Groups laud global calls for probes and sanctions on Duterte’s rights violations

Human rights groups welcomed measures by the international community to call for investigations and sanctions to stop human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

Karapatan said the recent resolution on the human rights situation in the Philippines by the European Parliament is a “welcome step towards reckoning and accountability over the Duterte administration’s blatant disregard of its obligation to uphold human rights and civil liberties in the country.”

The European Parliament, voting last Thursday, September 17, said it proactively supports the adoption of a resolution at the ongoing 45th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish an international investigation into human rights violations committed in the Philippines since Duterte became president.

The measure also recommended to the European Union (EU) to temporarily withdraw the Philippines’ Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus status that provides tariff perks for Filipino goods until the Duterte government “immediately carry out impartial, transparent, independent and meaningful investigations into all extrajudicial killings.”

“The resolution — adopted with 626 votes in favor, 7 against, and 52 abstentions —particularly killings related to the drug war as well as the recent killings of human rights activists Jose Reynaldo Porquia in Iloilo City, Randall Echanis in Quezon City and Zara Alvarez in Bacolod City while the Philippines is under coronavirus lockdown imposed by the government,” Karapatan said in a statement.  

The resolution also expressed alarm on the conviction of Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa over cyberlibel charges and the shutdown of ABS-CBN.

Philippine Human Rights Bill

US Congresswoman Susan Wild (D-PA). Supplied photo.

Filipino-American organizations meanwhile welcomed the introduction of the Philippine Human Rights Bill at the United States House of Representatives by Philadelphia Democrat Susan Wild.

The measure seeks to block US assistance to the Philippine police and military, including equipment and training, “until human rights conditions are met.”

The bill is co-sponsored by 18 other representatives.

If the bill becomes law, the US government shall stop funding support to the Philippine police and military unless the following are met:

  • Investigating and prosecuting members of the military and police forces who are credibly found to have violated human rights;  
  • Withdrawing the military from domestic policy;
  • Establishing protections of the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human right defenders, indigenous persons, small-farmers, LGBTI activists, and critics of the government;
  • Taking steps to guarantee a judicial system that is capable of investigating, prosecuting, and bringing to justice members of the police and military who have committed human rights abuses; and
  • Fully complying with any and all audits or investigations regarding the improper use of security aid.

Organizations such as the Communications Workers of America (CWA), The Malaya Movement, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines and Kabataan Alliance said they applaud the bill.

“[We are] proud to support the introduction of the Philippine Human Rights Act to protect the working people in the Philippines who are suffering greatly under the Duterte regime,” CWA Senior Director for Government Affairs and Policy Shane Larson said.

“Although we’re all dealing with the fallout of the pandemic right now, we cannot turn our backs on the crisis that Filipino workers have been facing under Duterte, which has greatly accelerated during COVID-19, with the Philippines government’s intensified power grab to persecute its political enemies. We must show Duterte that Americans and the labor movement won’t stand for him and his administration imprisoning and executing trade unionists and activists,” Larson added.

Other organizations supporting the bill include the Teamsters, Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, United Church of Christ – Global Ministries, United Methodist Church – General Board of Church & Society, Migrante USA, Gabriela USA, Anakbayan USA, Bayan-USA, Franciscan Network on Migration, Pax Christi New Jersey, Kabataan Alliance, and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns and others.

PH government response

In response, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque dismissed the effects of a possible revocation of the tariff perks on Philippine goods in Europe.

“No more discussions. They should do what they want to do during this time. If they want to implement it, go ahead,” Roque in an annoyed tone said.

“I’m sorry. I’m being very undiplomatic in my answer, but what else can I say? At the time of a pandemic, they’re threatening us. Susmaryosep, what else do we lose?” Roque added.

Philippine House of Representatives Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for his part said the European Parliament’s resolution is an interference in the “country’s domestic issues.”

“The Philippine House of Representatives takes exception to the outright interference of the European Parliament in the purely domestic matters of the Philippines by dictating on the government ‘to renew the broadcast license’ of ABS-CBN and to ‘drop’ the Cyberlibel charges against Maria Ressa,” Cayetano said in a statement.

“To our friends in the European Parliament, we have a saying here in the Philippines that the world is round. The day will come – mark my words – that the Philippines will be in a position to impose economic sanctions on your countries,” he fired back.

Karapatan however thanked the political parties who initiated the European Parliament resolution and the members of parliament who supported and adopted it.

“[W]e hope this will enjoin other governments and the international community at large to continue to take a strong stance in denouncing the Duterte administration’s attacks on human and people’s rights in the Philippines and in supporting an independent investigation by the UN HRC on these attacks,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

The fascistic tendencies of Donald J. Trump and the impending US war with Iran

By Prof. Edberto M. Villegas, PhD

The spectre of fascism is haunting American society today. Just like Adolf Hitler (the Fuhrer) of Germany and Benito Mussolini (Il Duce) of Italy in the 1920’s-1930’s, US president Donald J. Trump is perceived as a strong leader among less- educated (no college education) working whites (40% of the US population) to whom he presents himself as their economic messiah. The ideology of fascism, developed by Italian intellectuals in the 1920’s, stokes up fears that other races are dominating the economy of one’s mother country, specially seen in Mussolini’s “Manifesto of Race”. It also particularly blames other races as the primary cause of crimes and violence in a society and of taking away jobs from the locals. These constitute Hitler’s and Mussolini’s rants as well as those of Trump in their various speeches. Trump’s placing in detention camps Latin Americans trying to enter the US Southern border, his separating immigrant children from parents, his decision (now pending in the US Supreme Court) to terminate DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood’s Arrivals), his campaign of hounding and jailing undocumented immigrants, even those who have lived in the US for years, before deporting them are reminiscences of Hilter’s pogrom of discriminating and incarcerating Jews. Trump also drums up fear of job insecurity among white Americans because of the influx of immigrants into the US and unfavorable trade agreements with other countries, particularly with China.

Rodrigo R. Duterte, a would-be dictator

At this point, allow me to digress on President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. Duterte is compared to Hitler by the militants not because he likewise believes that other races are controlling the Philippine economy and society as, on the other hand, he panders to China and allows US military and economic dominance of the country. Duterte is compared to Hitler as a fascist because he silences through force his critics, and even aims to change the Philippine constitution to favor foreign business and his cabal of political opportunists. Unlike Hitler, Mussolini and Trump, Duterte persecutes those who oppose foreign control of the Philippine economy, even assassinating some of them he labels as terrorists. He has no plan for the expansion of Filipino industrialization and in fact, he opens up the local market wider to imports, killing Filipino-owned businesses. He even jokes of turning the Philippines into a a province of China. Actually, Duterte is just one aspiring to become a tin-pot-dictator in the likes of the US-sponsored Fulgencio Batista of Cuba, who thrived on the drug and gambling business in Havana before he was disposed in a revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959, and the drug smuggler Manuel Noriega of Panama, who was ousted in 1989 by his very patron, the US, when it had no more use of him and he was becoming a liability.

Trump’s fascistic tendencies

But let us return to the emerging fascist dictatorship in the US and leave Duterte and his minions to the judgment and retribution of historical justice. Trump’s castigation of foreign domination of certain areas of the US economy, specially by China, through unfair trade agreements, is more hype than truth. In the case of Germany, immediately before the rise of Hitler to power in the 1930’s, its economic woes were very real. The German mark plunged in value to as low as one million mark to one US dollar and German factories were closing down with US and UK capital gobbling them up. The mark was even referred to as papiermark (paper mark) because it became practically useless. This economic crisis was primarily due to the very unfair provisions imposed on Germany by the Versailles Treaty of 1919 by the vengeful Allies after the defeat of the former in World War I.

Like Hitler and Mussolini, Trump is a racist, believing those with white skin and blue eyes are more intellectually superior to other races. In fact, he is not against immigrants per se, but immigrants with a different skin color, for he invites white Norwegians to come to the US. At one time, he even told four Afro-American congresswomen to go back to the “shit hole” where they originated, meaning Africa. These women are in fact American citizens, with only one of them a naturalized immigrant, having been born in Somalia, Africa. Trump called demonstrating white neo-nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan, both extreme US rightist groups. in Charlottesville, Viriginia, “very fine people” even after one of them killed a woman . Like his fascist predecessors, Trump loves pomp and grandeur, claiming he had the biggest inauguration crowd ever in US history (which was untrue), and at one time wanted to hold a grand military parade, complete with tanks and airplanes, in Washington, but balked at pushing it through because of severe criticisms. Trump like his predecessors demonizes the US left, exemplified in the movement supporting Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both Democratic candidates vying to replace him in the US presidential election this coming November and both campaigning for more extensive universal health care than Obama care and free tuition for college education, which threatens corporate America, a great segment of which supports Trump.

The ongoing events in the US political arena are similar to the period before the rise to absolute power of Hitler and Mussolini. Trump like his two predecessors reiterates in rallies the entitlements of the Nordic race, specifically its male members, to social and economic privileges, even accusing Latin Americans and Middle Eastern immigrants as rapists, murderers and potential terrorists. He also constantly rails against the liberal free press and calls it as “enemy of the people” like Hitler. Trump’s adulation of strong man Putin of Russia is akin to Mussolini’s admiration of his fellow totalitarian leader, Hitler. Trump knows he owes Putin gratitude in the latter’s intervention, proven by US intelligence sources, in the 2016 election which catapulted the former television host to the US presidency.

Like Hitler and Mussolini, Trump is a populist leader, pumping up the primeval instincts of fear, pride and anger of his base, particularly among lower-class white Americans. Trump’s limited vocabulary like that of Hitler,replete with street language, appeals to the less-educated working whites. He easily connects with his crowd, inciting their emotions, with aggressive calls like “Lock her Up” and “Send them home”, which are echoed by his audience. These are akin to Hitler’s tirades against Jews as “vermins of the earth” and “killers of Jesus”, homosexuals as “freaks” and Russian communists as “subhumans”.He receives instant feedbacks from his listeners, repeating his slogans, unlike the sedate and intellectual orator Barrack Obama, who tries to appeal to reason rather than to passions. Trump is addicted to big crowds, often interrupting his responsibilities in the White House to rabble rouse his supporters.

Trump, also like Hitler and Mussolini, plays with the truth, creating what he calls “alternative facts”, which can dumbfound principled and good (politically naive?) people. To him what is true is what will serve his interests, and incessantly lies and insults his opponents, similar to Joseph Goebbels’s maxim (Goebbel was Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda) that lies can be believed by people as truths through repetitions (no different from capitalist advertisements) or propaganda. Trusting men of integrity and truthfulness were easily outwitted by Hitler. Remember how Hitler hoodwinked the gullible British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, when he was able to make the latter believe that he will not invade Poland because he signed the Munich Agreement, but which soon after he violated. Because of the breakdown of the Munich peace agreement, Chamberlain was replaced by the more politically astute, Winston Churchill. The lesson here is beware of treacherous peace-bearing incorrigible liars. #

(Tomorrow: Fascism and Capitalism and the US impending war with Iran)

Dr. Villegas authored “Global Finance Capital and the Philippine Financial System” and other political economy books and articles. He is a retired University of the Philippines and De La Salle University professor.

US holds Filipino activist, denies entry

A prominent Mindanao activist is being held by US immigration authorities at the San Francisco International Airport, various human rights organizations and individuals said.

Sandugo – Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination co-chairperson Jerome Aladdin Succor Aba has been denied entry to the US and is being held at the airport, the alerts said.

Aba is scheduled for deportation back to the Philippines Wednesday night, April 18, US time, the alerts added.

US immigration authorities have not released the basis for the denial of entry against the Filipino activist.

Fellow Moro advocate Amirah Ali Lidasan said Aba’s travel papers are in order, including a 10-year multiple entry visa to the US.

Lidasan added that no lawyer has been allowed to see Aba even after 15 hours of detention and they do not know if he has been treated well and fed.

A well-known critic of the Rodrigo Duterte government’s war in Marawi and elsewhere the Philippines, Aba was invited to the US by several church institutions, including the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Sisters of Mercy, and the General Board of Global Ministries-United Methodist Church to serve as a resource speaker at their respective events.

Aba was to speak on the human rights situation in the Philippines under the Duterte government during the Sixteenth National Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) for Global Peace with Justice in Washington D.C. on April 20 to 23.

The EAD is an annual national gathering of churches on peace and social justice issues that includes lobbying visits to Capitol Hill.

He was also scheduled to go on a speaking tour elsewhere in the US to campaign for a stop to the killings in the Philippines sponsored by the US Chapter of International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.

Filipino-Americans and other supporters including Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-USA have picketed the airport to demand Aba’s release and for him to be allowed entry to the US.

Advocates from outside the San Francisco/Bay Area have also launched a phone barrage to the US Customs and Border Protection Agency, the alert said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Activists burn Duterte effigy in US Embassy rally

On the 25th anniversary of the Philippine Senate rejection of the extension of the US-Philippine Military Bases Agreement, nationalist groups marched to the US Embassy in Manila Friday to protest what they say is the increasing American intervention in the Duterte regime.

The rally ended with the first-ever burning of a Duterte effigy by activists.