A reversal of 1991: Bayan slams "permanent presence and combat functions" of US troops in RP

News Release
August 22, 2009
For all intents and purposes, US troops have been based in the Philippines since 2002 sans any basing treaty, in violation of the Philippine Constitution. They have been engaged in other activities that go against the Constitution. Eighteen years after the Philippine Senate rejected a new bases treaty with the US, the American forces are again well entrenched in the country.
This was the reaction made by the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan amid news reports from the New York Times that some 600 American troops will be retained in Mindanao, according to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.Bayan accused Arroyo of single-handedly reversing the gains of the 1991 bases treaty rejection.
“The retention of US troops in the Philippines is an affront to our sovereignty, disguised as some questionable humanitarian mission. They have based themselves in the Philippines, particularly in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga since 2002, without any basing treaty. There’s not even a time frame for the deployment. It’s open ended. It could be forever,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“Under the regime of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, US troops are no longer just visitors. They are now permanently deployed here, 365 days a year, 24/7. The Visiting Forces Agreement covers the supposedly the temporary stay of American forces, but these US troops have been here seven years now. These US troops in Mindanao are also operating outside the Balikatan exercises or any other training program for that matter,” Reyes added.
Bayan said that the continued presence of foreign troops, even if only 600, sets a dangerous precedent. “The US troops might decide to stay longer. They might decide to deploy more troops, maybe thousands. What’s to stop them from doing that? What’s to stop them from setting up de facto bases in Mindanao?” Reyes said.
The militant group said that it will raise before the Supreme Court these new developments as part of their petition to declare the VFA unconstitutional. Bayan along with Gabriela and Bayan Muna were among the petitioners questioning the validity of the VFA.
“What we know is that 1) the American troops have overstayed, beyond the period supposedly contemplated by the VFA, 2) they have set up de facto bases and permanent structures in Mindanao, and 3) they are engaged in combat functions,” Reyes said.
“All these violate the constitution and are an insult to our sovereignty. They have managed to get basing rights even without a treaty concurred in by the Senate. If the US and Philippines invoke the VFA as the basis of the prolonged stay, then the Senate has been duped by when it ratified the VFA.. The Senate should then seek the termination of the VFA,” he said.
The VFA has been in effect since 1999 and has encountered many controversies, including the treatment on American marine who was convicted for rape but later on acquitted by the appeal court.
“The latest development affirms the warnings aired by critics of the VFA in 1999, that the pact will allow US troops permanent presence in the country. These warnings were not taken into account by previous rulings of the Supreme Court. It is our hope that they will consider these now that the US government has announced that the US troops are staying,” Reyes said.
Senate should probe activities of JSOTFP
Bayan doubted the real activities of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, a special forces unit under the US Pacific Command, based in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga.
“The JSOTFP is composed of the elite fighting units of the US armed forces. Their primary function is combat, so it is really doubtful when the US government says that these troops are engaged primarily in humanitarian efforts. Even if the US says 80% of their work is focused on alleged humanitarian work, that would still mean 20% of their work is combat-related,” Reyes said.
“The question is, does the Philippine constitution allow foreign troops to have ANY combat role in the Philippines? It is our view that the US troops’ activities are not limited to training and that they are operating together with AFP combat units in actual combat operations or in conditions were armed adversaries are present,” Reyes said.
Bayan called on the Philippine senate to investigate the gains of the Philippines from the prolonged stay of the US troops in Mindanao. “We want to know, after seven years of having US troops operate in Mindanao, why is it that the Abu Sayyaf group has not been eliminated? Or is it because US troops have other ‘missions’ that we are not aware of and that the ASG is just being used as a pretext for the stay of US forces?” Reyes asked. ###


Theme: “Resistance, Resilience, and Respect for Human Rights”
“CHinemma’, Nina’maolek, yan Inarespetu para Direchon Taotao”
Location: University of Guam, Mangilao, Guahan
Dates: September 14-19, 2009

Sponsoring Organizations: Conscious Living; Famoksaiyan; Fuetsan Famalao’an; Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice; Guahan Indigenous Collective; GUAHAN Project; Global Fund for Women; Sage Project, Incorporated; Women and Gender Studies Program, University of Guam

September 14 (Monday)
Pre-Conference Session:
“Human Trafficking 101: Identifying Victims, Examining Policy Frameworks, and Building a Transnational Movement”

This workshop will present a general discussion of human trafficking, explore diasporic trends from Asia to other parts of the world, examine policy frameworks to effectively combat human trafficking, and identify steps towards building a transnational movement in the Asia-Pacific region.
Facilitated by SAGE, Inc. from San Francisco, California
Facilitators: Annie Fukushima (California), Aida Santos-Maranan (Philippines), and a representative from South Korea
Location: ParaOceana Business Center (Bank of Guam building), 674 Harmon Loop Road, Suite 309

September 14 (Monday)
Participants arrive
6:00-9:00PM- Welcome Reception: Traditional welcome from Saina Benit Dungca, presentation of Legislative Commendation Resolution to the network, and Inetnon Gef Pago
Location: Government House, Haganta Heights

September 15 (Tuesday) CLOSED MEETING
7:30-8:00AM- Shibashi or yoga
8:00-8:45AM- Breakfast and Country representatives’ meeting
9 AM- Network participants’ sharing of country reports focused on activist activities
12 noon- Lunch and meeting of moderators with respective panelists
1-5PM- Review of network goals from 6th meeting and appraisal of progress towards meeting goals AND discussion on network name.
5:00-6:00 PM- Dinner
Location: Carmel on the Hill Retreat Center, Malojloj

6:30-8:30PM- Public Forum: “Strategies of Resistance from Other Countries”
Suzuyo Takazato, Okinawa
______________, South Korea
Carmen Valencia, Vieques, Puerto Rico
Terry Ke’ko’olani, Nation of Hawai’i’
Corazon Fabros or Ana Maria Nemenzo, Philippines
Location: University of Guam Lecture Hall
Moderator: Jamela Santos

September 16 (Wednesday)
7:30-8:00 AM- Shibashi and yoga
8-9AM- Breakfast & Country representatives’ breakfast meeting
9:30AM- Pick-up from the retreat center
All Day Guam Bus Tour- Visits to historical sites, military base gates, war monuments, anticipated site of Marine location, and cultural sites (to include the Hurao Cultural Camp, Lina’la’ Cultural Center, an ancestral desecration site, Gef Pago, etc.).
12 noon- Lunch at Angel Santos Latte Park
5:30-6:30PM- dinner at the Chamoru Village night market

SEPTEMBER 17, 2009 (Thursday)

Location: University of Guam, Leon Guerrero Building Lecture Hall

Registration and continental breakfast
Country representatives’ breakfast meeting

Welcoming remarks/peace prayer/opening chants

9:15- 10AM
Rethinking peace and security: Genuine security as rooted in the United Nation’s concept of human security
Presenter: Dr. Gwyn Kirk, a founding member, Women for Genuine Security, the U.S.-based group of the International Network.

10:AM-12:30PM (break from 11-11:15AM)
Panel presentation: “Beyond the Military Economy: Exploring Alternatives for Sustainability”
Alma Bulawan, Buklod, Philippines
Dr. Hannah Middleton, Australian Anti-Bases Campaign, Sydney, Australia
Dr. Miyumi Tanji, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia
_____________, Republic of Belau


Panel Presentation Titled: “Environmental contamination and toxicity: Reclaiming our physical environments through clean-up, health and healing practices”
You Kyoung Ko, South Korea
Representative from Majuro, Republic of Marshall Islands
___________, Vieques, Puerto Rico
Dolly Yanan, Metro Subic Network, Philippines
Moderator: Sabina Perez


Panel Presentation Titled: “Military training and violence against women and children: How do we keep ourselves safe?”
Suzuyo Takazato, Okinawa, Japan
Vangie Cabacar, President of Victim Advocates Reaching Out, Guahan
Corazon Lotlot Requirzo, Kaisa Ka, Philippines
Moderator: Nicole Santos

Wrap Up and Announcement of Community Vigil

5:30PM- Community Vigil to Honor the Past and Heal for the Future
Delegations share cultural trauma as a result of militarism
Location: University of Guam

7:00-8:00 PM- Dinner for international participants

SEPTEMBER 18, 2009 (Friday)
Location: Carmel on the Hill Retreat Center, Malojloj
Where do we go from here?

7:30-8:00 AM
Shibashi or yoga

Registration and continental breakfast
Country representatives’ breakfast meeting

Welcoming remarks and review of day’s tasks

“Human trafficking and Prostitution: Towards a Woman-Centered Policy Framework”
Annie Fukushima, University of California at Berkeley
Bok Nim Yu, Director, Dasi Hamkke Center, South Korea
Aida Santos, WeDpro, Inc., Philippines
Lauri Ogumoro, Karidat Esperanza House, Commonwealth of the North Mariana Islands
Sue Gilbey, Adelaide, Australia
Moderator: Dr. Vivian Dames

11-12:00 Noon
Regional/country working group meetings to develop specific short and long-term goals.

Lunch and Premiere showing of “Along the Fenceline: Women’s Voices on Peace and

Connecting regional/country working group short and long-term goals to setting national and international initiatives. Discussion of future actions.
Facilitators TBD

Conference wrap up and announcement of Public Art Event from 6:30-9PM

5:00-6:00PM- Dinner for international participants

6:30-10 PM- Public Art Event to include: demilitarizing fashion show, sale of international women-made goods, and local art show.
Location: TBD

September 19 (Saturday)
7:30-8:00AM- Shibashi or yoga

8-9AM- Breakfast and country representatives’ breakfast meeting

9AM-5PM- Informal meeting and networking at Urunao Beach.
Explanation of Urunao as a Superfund Site, healing ritual at latte stone site, traditional chanters, and farewells.