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MANILA — The recent deaths of two US soldiers in Sulu have strengthened calls for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States.

Staff Sgt. Jack Martin and Sgt. First Class Christopher Shaw were killed together with a Philippine Marine identified only as a Private First Class Estrada on Sept. 28 when their vehicle struck a landmine in Barangay Kagay, Indanan town, Sulu.

Members of the Mindanao-based human rights group Kawagib visited Sulu in the wake of the Sept. 28 explosion and reported being informed by residents of Barangay Kagay that the vehicle which carried Martin, Shaw and Estrada was on its way to Barangay Batu-Bato, also in Indanan, transporting supplies.

“But they didn’t know what kind of supplies these were,” Kawagib secretary-general Bai Ali Indayla told Bulatlat in an interview. “These could have been food; these could also have been bullets.”

Kawagib members also reported that since the explosion, the military has conducted indiscriminate aerial bombings not only in Indanan, but also in nearby Panamao. A bridge leading to Maimbung and Parang was also shelled.

According to Indayla, the deaths of Martin and Shaw have raised fears among Sulu’s residents that the US may intervene and cause the escalation of the armed conflict in their province. “In fact, so many have evacuated for fear of being caught in the crossfire,” she told Bulatlat.

Indayla said the deaths of Martin and Shaw only serves to underscore the urgency of abrogating the VFA.

Passed by the Philippine Senate in 1999 and signed that same year by then President Joseph Estrada, the VFA grants extraterritorial and extrajudicial “rights” to US servicemen visiting the Philippines. It made possible the Balikatan military exercises, which have been held annually since 2002; and is also invoked to justify the presence of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P).

The VFA has several times courted controversy in the last decade, with critics assailing it for violating sovereignty, among other reasons. Others have also pointed to the social costs of US military presence in the Philippines, not the least of which, they say, are the rise in prostitution and other forms of abuse against women.

The explosion that killed Martin, Shaw, and Estrada took place just days after the passage of a Senate resolution calling for the renegotiation or termination of the VFA.

On Sept. 23, the Senate passed without objection Senate Resolution No. 1356 calling for a renegotiation or termination of the VFA. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairperson of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the VFA (Lovfa), sponsored the resolution, with senators Rodolfo Biazon, Joker Arroyo, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan II, Panfilo Lacson, and Francis Pangilinan as co-sponsors.

But for Roland Simbulan, an expert on Philippine-US foreign and military relations, the call should go beyond renegotiation.

“Why just renegotiate when we do not need an onerous treaty like this?” Simbulan said in an interview with Bulatlat. “The call should be for immediate abrogation.”

Among the issues Santiago raised in her sponsorship speech for SR 1356 was that of the length of time that US troops are allowed to stay in the Philippines. This is an issue on which the VFA is silent. The VFA’s preamble merely states that “from time to time elements of the United States armed forces may visit the Republic of the Philippines.” Within the VFA, the term “United States personnel” is defined as “United States military and civilian personnel temporarily in the Philippines in connection with activities approved by the Philippine Government.”

“In the language of constitutional law, the VFA is void for vagueness, because it fails to define the terms ‘visit,’ ‘temporary,’ and ‘military activities,’” Santiago said. “Under the vagueness doctrine, it is impermissible for a statute to delegate basic policy matters to administrators, to such a degree as to lead to arbitrary and discriminatory application.”

According to Simbulan, the issue goes beyond the length of time that US troops can stay in the Philippines.

“First, there is the issue of unequal treatment before our own laws,” Simbulan said. “Why should groups of armed foreign soldiers entering our territory be given special rights and privileges like exemption from our immigration, customs and quarantine laws, exemption from berthing and port fees, Land Transportation Office requirements, and even being given special treatment in case of violations of our criminal laws or other laws in the country? There is no reciprocity for these rights and privileges that we have given them, which are not even accorded to foreign diplomats.”

Second, Simbulan added, “why are we allowing and even inviting foreign troops to interfere with our internal problems like kidnapping cases, and other peace and order problems? Rebellion and insurgency are also internal problems that our government is asking them to interfere in clandestinely. Otherwise, why are the Balikatan joint training exercises which are ostensibly the ‘activities’ being covered by the VFA being held in the most volatile areas of our country? If these were purely for military training purposes, then they should be held outside the conflict areas like in the Philippine Army training camps in Nueva Ecija or in Tanay, Rizal.”

He said that “under the cover or let me even call it camouflage of the VFA and Balikatan, we have allowed foreign troops to engage in secret combat operations for counter-insurgency, even allowing them to construct ‘forward operating bases’ inside Philippine Army camps, which is a violation of the Philippine Constitution. Official US documents call them ‘forward operating bases’, but US Embassy officials here and the Armed Forces of the Philippines still deny that they are bases.”

Allowing them to engage in counterinsurgency in both covert or overt ways is already in violation of the Constitution, Simbulan said. “US specialists in counterinsurgency, covert operations, psy-ops and intelligence from the elite units of the US Army are already here actively involved in combat by being embedded in many combat units of the local armed forces. But usually, they engage in their own ‘surgical missions’ independently. This is a transgression of our national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he pointed out.

“So the issue of their length of time in their stay here is an issue, but not the fundamental issue. They can always skirt this issue by rotating their troops for a specified time but keep their presence all year round, as they have been doing since 2002 in the permanent military bases and facilities worth more than $14 million that they have constructed.”

A press release by the US Department of Defense described Martin and Shaw as being “in the Philippines supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.”

Operation Enduring Freedom is the official name given to the US government’s military response to the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City. It entails a series of anti-“terrorism” activities in Afghanistan, the Philippines, the Horn of Africa, Trans-Sahara, and Pakinsi Gorge.

The Philippine Constitution prohibits foreign military presence in the country, “except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.”

The US government does not recognize the VFA as a treaty, but merely considers it an “executive agreement”.

“For us, the VFA should have been abrogated a long time ago,” Indayla said. “With this incident that claimed the lives of two American soldiers, residents of Sulu are fearful that the war in their province will escalate.” (Bulatlat.com)

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Nakatakdang ikasa ng BAN BALIKATAN-Bikol, mga alyansang nabuo sa mga probinsya ng rehiyong Bikol tulad ng UMALAB-CA ng Camarines Sur, SUMABA KA ng Sorsogon, ALMA-ALAB ng Albay, ALMA-LABAN ng Masbate at Youth Stop Balikatan ng mga kabataan sa rehiyon (YSB-Bikol).

Mainit namang debate saan mang bahagi ng bansa ang Visiting Forces Agreement dahil sa kaso ni Lance Corporal Daniel Smith at maging ang Senado at Kongreso ay nababahala dahil sa usapin ng Integridad at Soberanya ng bansa ang nakataya na niyuyurakan ng bansang Estados Unidos na patuloy namang sinasamba ng mga alipuris nito sa administrasyong Arroyo.

Ang Balikatan 2009 ay ika-25 military exercises na sa ating bansa at ang pakikilahok ng sundalong amerikano sa usaping internal ng ating bansa ay hindi kailanman ginagarantiya ng konstitusyon ng Pilipinas at maging ang VFA ay hindi naman kinakilala sa bansang Estados Unidos. Ang ipinagmamalaking Humanitarian Missions ay pantabing lamang at pansuhol upang patahimikin ang mamamayang tumututol dahil sa benepisyong maibibigay nito sa ating mga kababayan ngunit maliit na bahagi lamang ito dahil ang pinakalayunin ng Balikatan ay war-games.

Sa huling bisita ng Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines na si General Alexander Yano sa rehiyong Bikol binanggit nito sa mga panayam ng media na nakahanda diumano ang AFP na kanselahin ang Balikatan Exercises sa Bikol kung ang VFA ay may depekto. Ngunit para sa mga bikolanong dumarami ang hanay ng mga tumututol ay maaring tuluyang mahinto lamang ang Balikatan sa Bikol at buong bansa sa sama-samang pagkilos ng sambayanan at tuligsain ang pamahalaang Arroyo sa pagiging bulag, bingi at inutil sa kawalang aksyon at pagpapaka-tuta sa imperyalismong US.

Ayon kay Ken Serrano tagapagsalita ng UMALAB-CA, “wala ng makakapigil sa Sakbayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Balikatan sa loob ng rehiyong Bikol na hinati sa dalawang bahagi. Merong magsisimula sa probinsya ng Sorsogon at may magmumula din sa Camarines Norte na sisimulan sa Pebrero 23 hanggang 25 ngayong taon kasalukuyan at nakahanda na ang lahat ng rekisitos upang walang maging dahilan ang AFP at PNP sa ating rehiyon na antalain o pigilan sa pamamagitan ng mga checkpoints ang mamamayang tutol sa Balikatan.”

Dagdag pa ni Ken, “buong lakas na lalabanan ng makabayang mamamayang bikolano at ng mga kasaping alyansa ng BAN BALIKATAN-Bikol ang Balikatan Exercises na ito sa ating rehiyon dahil sa loob ng mahigit 100 taon na pagkakatali ng bansang Pilipinas sa Imperyalistang US ay nananatili pa ring atrasado at nasa ilalim ng kontrol ekonomiya, pulitika at militar at nawawala ang esensya ng pagiging malaya ng bansa na mula pa noon ay pinaiikot sa kamay ng iilan lamang ang kalayaan at demokrasya.”

Inaasahang libo-libong bikolano ang dadagsa sa Sakbayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Balikatan upang irehistro ang pagtutol, igiit ang integridad at soberanya, wakasan ang panghihimasok ng US sa ating bansa at ipaglaban ang kalayaan ng bansa sa kamay ng Imperyalismong US.

Dagdag pa nito, “walang karapatan ang AFP/PNP na harangin an gaming delegasyon saan mang panig ng kabikolan na dadaanan ng Sakbayan dahil karapatan naming ipahayag ang aming saloobin, karapatan naming makapagsagawa ng malayang asembliya at pagtitipon at kung patuloy na lalabagin ito ng AFP o PNP ay nakahanda kami na harapin ang mga ito at maging ang mga makabayang Abogado na sumisimpatiya ay nakahandang tumulong sakaling i-harass ang mobilisasyon.”

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Sektor ng Transportasyon Magkaisa, Tutulan ang Balikatan

Magsasagawa ng protesta ang sektor ng transportasyon sa pangunguna ng CONDOR-Bicol, ng BUSINA LABAN SA BALIKATAN simula 5:00-5:30 ng hapon ngayong araw, Pebrero 20, 2009 para ipahayag ang pagtutol sa isasagawang ika-25 BALIKATAN Exercise na gaganapin dito sa Bicol at sa iba pang bahagi ng bansa.

Naniniwala ang CONDOR na panabing lamang sa tunay na pakay ng Estados Unidos ang “humanitarian missions” ng BALIKATAN Exercise. Kapalit ng mga serbisyong gamot, daan at repair ng mga paaralan ay sisingilin tayo ng mas pinatinding mga polisiya sa pulitika, ekonomiya at militar para patuloy na makapagdomina ang kanilang bansa. Ang katangiang  ito ng US ay pinatunayan ng maraming karanasan mismo ng ating bansa at iba pang mga bansa sa daigdig.

Tinututulan ng sektor ng transportasyon ang dominasyon ng Estados Unidos dahil numero unong nagpapahirap sa sektor ang mga polisiyang imposisyon nito sa bansa gaya ng Oil Deregulation Law, ang 12% Vat sa langis at ang bago ngayon na 200-1,200% na pagtaas sa mga babayaran sa mga traffic at administrative violations at at mga administrative fees at charges sa driver’s at conductor’s license na ipapatupad sa ilalim ng LTO Department Order #2008-39 at Department Order 2008-38 na nakatakdang iimplementa ngayong taon.

Dagdag na pasanin ito sa sektor ng transportasyon na patuloy nang dumaranas na higit na kahirapan dahil sa pagbapabago-bagong presyo ng mga produktong petrolyo, nagtataasang  presyo ng mga peyesa, samu’t saring bayarin sa pagkuha ng prangkesa, rehistrasyon, nagtataasang bilihin, at sebisyo sosyal. Napakalinaw ng motibo ng DOTC at LTO na ang pagpataw ng mga dagdag na bayarin ay hindi upang disiplinahin ang sektor kundi patuloy na gatasan o pagkakitaan ng gobyerno ang dugo at pawis ng buong sektor ng trasportasyon upang magkamal ng malaking pera para sa kanilang mga layaw at interes dahil sa talamak ng na korapsyon ng pamahalaang ito. Ang pera na dapat sa ay mapupunta na sa mga hapag kainan ng aming pamilya ay legal na nanakawin at pagpapapasasaan.

Kung kaya kami kasama ang buong pamilya namin at mga mamamayan ay tumututol sa lahat ng anyo ng maniobra ng Rehimeng Arroyo at Estados Unidos para mandambong sa mamamayang Pilipino at sa yaman ng ating bansa.

Mariin naming tinututulan ng BALAKATAN Exercise, ang Visiting forces Agreement at mga polisiyang direktang tumatama sa aming sektor.

TUTULAN ANG DOMINASYON NG ESTADOS UNIDOS SA LARANGAN NG PULITIKA,EKONOMIYA AT MILITAR NG ATING BANSA!

Ibasura ang Oil Deregulation Law, 12% VAT sa langis,

TUTULAN ANG PANIBAGONG  DEPARTMENT ORDER #2008-39 AT DEPARTMENT ORDER 2008-38 NA 200-1,200% PAGTAAS SA MGA PENALIDAD NG SEKTOR NG TRANSPORTASYON.

– CONDOR – PISTON – BIKOL

Reference: Joel Ascutia, President

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The Bikolano Alliance for Nationalism against Balikatan (BAN BALIKATAN) and KARAPATAN-Bikol condemned the killing of a 1 year old child in the Balikatan clearing operations conducted by elements of the 901st Infantry Brigade in Purok 5, Brgy Balanac, Ligao City, Albay.

According to Prof. Jocelyn Bisuña, spokesperson of BAN BALIKATAN, “This is unforgivable! A child is now gone because the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is targeting Filipino citizens just to please their US foreign master,”

“Rafaela Polborido, 1year and 4 months old, died at midnight of February 19 when she succumbed to the wounds she sustained, when soldiers shot and fired grenade launchers on their house. This is part of the continuing harassment and the violation of Bicolanos’ rights by the military. Recently they also harassed drivers and people in Guinobatan and Jovellar in the same province threatening them against joining the anti-Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) caravan,” said Bisuña.

Meanwhile John Concepcion, spokesperson of KARAPTAN-Bikol said, “not only was Rafaela killed her whole family and others were injured as well, Jocelyn Polborido 30 years old, Ina Polborido 5 years old, Daisy Polborido, 4 years old, Eufemia Polborido, 28 years old, Julius Polborido, 2 years old, Andrea, 4 years old, Rose Dalima 31 years old, Roderick Dalima 5 years old, Mary Rose Dalima, 10 months old and Emerson, 9 years old. We are now assisting the families in whatever action they may take to hold the soldiers accountable,”

“We hope that this is the last, but if the Balikatan continues then we fear that more cases like these may happen,” added Concepcion.

“This is the military’s way to intimidate the Bicolano people into agreeing to the Balikatan exercises, but we will not be cowed. The anti-VFA caravan will continue and we will further intensify our struggle against foreign intervention and to junk the VFA and Balikatan,” ended Bisuña.

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Press Release
Reference: Ken Serrano, Spokeperson of UMALAB-CA

“Visiting Forces Agreement, Ibasura! Manindigan para sa Soberanya at Integridad ng ating Bansa!”

Nitong nakaraang linggo lamang ay dineklara ng Korte Suprema at kinikilala ang Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) na konstitusyonal sa botong 9-4 pabor sa VFA ngunit tanging ang Pilipinas lamang ang kumikilala dito at ang bansang Estados Unidos ay hindi kailangang pilitin na ipatupad dahil walang ratipikasyon na isinagawa ang US sa sarili nitong batas.

Malaking insulto sa ating bansa na ipagpilitan na konstitusyonal ang VFA gayung hindi naman kinikilala ng US ang kasunduang ito laluna sa kinasangkutang kaso ni Lance Corporal Daniel Smith sa usaping kostudiya ng Pilipinas at ikulong sa National Bilibid Prison dahil sa pagkakasala nito sa ating batas sa panggagahasa kay “Nicole”.

Isang malaking hamon ito sa ating mga mambabatas kung kaya’t ang mga kinatawan ng militanteng grupo sa loob ng mababang kapulungan ay naghapag ng resolusyon ang House Resolution 458 that calls for the abrogation of the VFA in light of the many cases of US troops’ violations of Philippine laws (Including the case of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith) noon pang Pebrero 12, 2008 at hanggang sa ngayon ay patuloy na isinusulong.

Maituturing din na pagyurak ito sa ating Soberanya at Integridad bilang isang bansang nagsasarili ngunit sa esensya ay kontrolado ng Imperyalismong US. Ang VFA ay higit pa sa kanyang pakahulugan sa “Visiting Forces” dahil hindi lamang pagbisita ng mga sundalo ang layunin ng Balikatan kundi  pananatili ng pwersa ng US sa ating bansa sa anumang oras, panahon, panig ng bansa na gugustuhin ng US Troops na mistulang napakalaking base militar ang buong kapuluan ng bansa ng walang limitasyon.

Naniniwala din kami na maninindigan ang ilang makabayang lehislador sa Senado at Kongreso upang hadlangan ang VFA at tuluyang maibasura o maratipika ang mga probisyong makaisang panig na pumapabor lamang sa Estados Unidos at ang sambayanang Pilipino ay titindig upang labanan ang labis na pagsasamantalang ito sa ating bansa.

Mariing tutulan ng UMALAB-CA o Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Balikatan-Camarines Sur Alliance ang Balikatan ’09 sa rehiyong Bikol. Hinihimok din namin ang mga makabayang Bikolano na manindigan laban sa Balikatan ’09 at VFA.

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In Albay, 5,000 people expressed their resounding opposition of the conduct of Balikatan 2009 in Bicol and thundered the streets to shout: STOP BALIKATAN! They also told the US Troops to stay out of Albay Province.

Basic sectors protest Balikatan in Albay

Basic sectors protest Balikatan in Albay

In Sorsogon, 7,000 people stormed into the streets shouting NO TO BALIKATAN and encouraging more Sorsoganon folks to speak out against Balikatan and defend our sovereignty.

Sorsoganons by the thousands rally against Balikatan

Sorsoganons by the thousands rally against Balikatan

In Masbate, 8,000 people congested the narrow streets in order to indicate their strong opposition of Balikatan 2009 and no to indignity, intervention, human rights violations, US terrorism and poverty.

In Camarines Sur, 2,000 people flooded the streets shouting out protests and pouring out their indignation of foreign intervention and violations to the Constitution.

Thousands of people went out and marched against Balikatan in Naga City, Camarines Sur

Thousands of people went out and marched against Balikatan in Naga City, Camarines Sur

In Camarines Norte, a substantial number of people also participated in an Outdoor Activity to protest against Balikatan.

All over Bicol today, January 22, 2009, more than 22,000 Bicolano nationalists headed by BAN Balikatan expressed their opposition to US Intervention and terrorism. Bicolanos showed that they will never rest until the US troops have totally been driven out of our country, VFA/MLSA have totally been scrapped, genuine peace has been achieved  and our country has undergone significant and lasting political and economic change.

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Video of Rev. Bishop Lucilo Quiambao as he speaks out No to Balikatan in Bicol.

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