Resolve complaints vs US troops in Mindanao, gov’t asked

Amirah Ali Lidasan, national president of Suara Bangsamoro (Voice of the Moro People), said the US military should answer complaints against the behavior of their soldiers toward Filipino civilians.  

Lidasan claimed US soldiers resorted to brazen display of armed might even in non-combat areas.

“The government should look into the complaints against US soldiers who issued an order to a hospital chief in Panamao, Sulu to shut down hospital operations at night,” she said.

She cited a recent case in Zamboanga City where passengers of a tricycle complained in a radio station about US soldiers who accidentally bumped their vehicle in Calarian village on December 15, 2007.

Instead of helping the victims to get up, the US servicemen got down from their vehicle in full battle gear which made them look like they were going to war, she said.

“Ordinary citizens of Mindanao have been exposed to the impertinent attitudes of the US soldiers, and this is aggravated if government officials do not act on it,” she added.

Another case cited was the reported involvement of US soldiers in a combat operation in a camp of the Moro National Liberation Front based in Sulu in November 2005. The camp belongs to MNLF Sulu State Chairman Khaid Ajibon.

Lidasan said the incident led to an inquiry by the House Committee on Peace and Reconciliation where several witnesses said US troops were involved in the operation.

The incident infuriated the people of Sulu and caused massive protests in Jolo in 2006, she said.

At the same time Lidasan praised Sarangani Gov. Miguel Dominguez for apprehending US soldiers who were in uniform and displaying their firearms in a local fast food establishment

The governor said the act violated Philippines laws.

Lidasan expressed fears that should these cases remain unresolved civilians in Balikatan areas will be more vulnerable to the presence of US troops.

“It is a pain for the victims of Balikatan to learn that their complaints have fallen on deaf ears as the government gave a go-signal to commence the Balikatan exercises in their areas despite the unresolved cases of human rights violations that involved US soldiers,” she said.

US officials have said their soldiers have the right to carry guns and that firing at people whom they think are threats to their security absolves them of any culpability. (MindaNews)