GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/20 April) – The symbolism was not lost on the Leftist militants who staged a week-long protest caravan that coincided with the holding of another round of joint military exercises between Philippine and US troops.
On the day they ended their island-wide caravan that brought them to several cities south of Mindanao, they chose to find themselves in the middle of the plaza named after an American general who led a
bloody war of attrition against inhabitants of the island at the turn of the 19th century.
General John ‘Black Jack’ Pershing was a major in the US Army when he was sent “to suppress the insurrection” in Mindanao and Jolo in 1899.
He saw action in Lanao during the Filipino-American War and was a hero in the American colonial war in Cuba before he was assigned to the Philippines.
Pershing was also the regimental quartermaster of the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the US Army which was immortalized by the late reggae master Bob Marley in his signature song ‘Buffalo Soldiers.’
Marley described the regiment as a US army unit which took in Cuban slaves to fight for America.
Members of the Patriyotiko Mindanao kicked off their protest against the continued presence of American troops in the country on April 15 in General Santos City.
They were joined by their fellow militants from Davao City in Cotabato City where a brief scuffle ensued allegedly involving a still unnamed soldier who punched a woman protester in front of the headquarters of the 6th Infantry Division in nearby Awang, Maguindano.
The protest caravan brought them to the cities of Koronadal, Pagadian and Ipil before finally winding up in Zamboanga City.
The protesters who claimed their numbers have swelled to 4,000, arrived in Zamboanga City Wednesday evening.
Philippine and US troops will hold joint military exercises in Glan, Sarangani in June as part of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries.
Glan, along with Zamboanga City, is one of the earliest settlement areas of the American occupation forces in Mindanao.
A group of American teachers called Thomasites arrived in what is now Kiamba town in Sarangani in 1907 after the Filipino-American War.
The Thomasites, who arrived in Manila in August 1901, were so called because they came aboard the transport vessel USS Thomas.
US military advisers and troops have been stationed in in the cities of General Santos, Cotabato and Zamboanga over the last seven years.
They have been providing intelligence and war materiel support to the Philippine military in the fight against terrorism.
There have been accusations however that US troops have directly participated in combat operations against Philippine insurgents, a violation of the VFA.
Both the Philippine military and US embassy officials in the country have denied the allegations. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews)