Groups call for US forces to leave Mindanao

They urged the Philippine government to stop the Balikatan exercises and to boot out United States military forces in the country.

Bayan Muna national executive vice president Joel Virador, in a press conference at the Elena Tower Inn here this morning, urged for the repeal of treaties and agreements that allow the US military’s presence in Philippine soil, among them the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

“We have long desired for self-determination, national sovereignty, and lasting peace. We hereby declare our unequivocal opposition to the ongoing US military expedition in Mindanao,” he said.

The former Bayan Muna party list representative said the US soldiers’ presence in Mindanao is “a transgression of the Philippine constitution and a repression of human rights.”

Sister Minda Obnimaga, of the Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN), called on Mindanawons to unify and join the cause to rid Mindanao of US soldiers.
The campaign will highlight a series of “US intervention watch forums” at the Marawi and Iligan campuses of the Mindanao State University, and also at the Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City. Youth and students will also light candles starting 5 p.m. daily outside the Elena Tower Inn, where seven US soldiers are reportedly billeted.

A Mindanao-wide caravan will culminate in a rally in Cagayan de Oro on Feb. 18.

They said that the presence of US troops in Mindanao is “just a way to sugar-coat the permanent presence” of the US’s special operation forces in the Philippines after losing its bases in 1991.

US troops are expected to conduct “humanitarian and medical missions” in the remote municipalities of Butig and Pualas in Lanao del Sur and in Balo-i and Sultan Naga Dimaporo in Lanao del Norte, and in Marawi city.

Hana Balindong, of the Liga ng Kabataang Moro-Lanao, said that US troops here because the superpower is interested in the natural resources found in the Moro areas.

Virador accused the US of sending in mercenaries out to sow terror in Mindanao, citing as example the case of Michael Meiring, who was wounded when a bomb exploded in his hotel room in Davao City in 2002. While recuperating from serious wounds at a hospital, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation whisked him out of the country, leaving Davaoeños to suspect there must be more to Meiring than just the treasure hunter he claimed he was.

“We accuse Meiring of mercenary operations in our country. We believe that there are other mercenaries like him operating in Mindanao who are responsible for the series of bombings here,” Virador commented.

“Who is sponsoring these bombings? Bring back Meiring here and let him expose the truth,” he said.

Virador noted that there has been a series of bombings of steel towers bearing power lines of the National Transmission Corp. (TransCo) in Lanao the past weeks just before the arrival of the US troops, implying that these must have been staged to pave the way for the arrival of the American soldiers.

But Bob Dawis, a ranking engineer at TransCo, said that such theory “is a new story for me.”

He said among the suspects is a land owner whose property was damaged because of the inundation of water at the man-made lake in Balo-i town, which impounded water of the Agus River to run a power plant’s turbine. (Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews)