Gabriela Party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan made the call in a privilege speech last Monday, February 18, at the House of Representatives.
This, as leaders in Lanao del Sur, led by Governor Mamintal “Bombit” Adiong, signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) Monday, setting limits to movements of US troops in the area.
The provincial government had earlier opposed the conduct of Balikatan in the province.
Lacs Dalidig, president of the Muslim Multisectoral Movement for Peace and Development (MMMPD) told MindaNews in a telephone interview that Adiong signed the MOA with Brig. Gen. Reynard Ronnie Javier, commander of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade based in Campo Ranao, Marawi City.
Why the MOA is with the AFP has surprised many, including Dalidig.
The MOA, according to the Cotabato City-based radio station DXMS, made clear that US servicemen will participate only in humanitarian missions, not during the actual fight against suspected terrorists and other lawless groups.
It also limits to only 47 the total number of US workforce inclusive of doctors, nurses, medical staff, engineers and utility workers to perform the missions in Lanao del Sur.
The MOA also specifies that after the missions are done, there will be no more extension.
Adiong explained to DXMS that what the local officials have allowed in his province are the medical and dental missions, which are given free, and not the joint military exercises or the ‘war games.’
“We’ve been criticized for accepting the missions here. But what we only allowed here are the civic action programs, which can be of help to many poor Muslims and Christians, alike,” he stressed.
Ilagan, in her privilege speech at the House of Representatives last Monday, said the Gabriela Women's Party “is questioning the real motive behind these so-called humanitarian missions. We see this as a ploy to conceal the very intrusive US military's combat and intelligence operations in our country. At the same time, through these missions, the U.S. in collaboration with the Philippine government is able to
pave a gilded path for a grudging acceptance towards American corporations that have cornered highly profitable contracts over Mindanao's resources. The oil-rich shores of the second biggest island in the country are being drooled over by multi-national giants
planning profitable partnerships with the Philippine government. And we all know that our government has a poor track record in honest to goodness deals that can benefit our people.”
Ilagan stressed that the danger with these humanitarian missions, “is that they attempt to spread a mantle over the human rights abuses by the US soldiers in our country. The experiences of our people in Mindanao speak clearly of the real motive of the Balikatan exercises and the peril that it poses on our people.”
She cited the February 4 massacre in Ipil, Maimbung, Sulu. US soldiers were supposed to have joined Philippine troops in the raid on Ipil.
Six other incidents were listed down by the Out Now Coalition, a broad network of NGOs and people's organizations as atrocities committed by the US forces in the last five years.
Ilagan said the medical civic action programs (MedCaps) conducted by US servicemen “undermine the capacity of local civilian authorities and highlight the inability of local agencies to carry out the same tasks, because the latter are hampered by limited resources.”
“It highlights the sad reality that while Mindanao contributes so much to the coffers of the national treasury, it receives little in return,” she said.
“I believe it is high time that we are enlightened on the real score as to how the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement and the Visiting Forces Agreement are being implemented. The fact that since 2002, around 17 to 24 Balikatan exercises had been held yearly, what have we accomplished so far?” Ilagan asked. (MindaNews)