Skip to content

Balikatan Exercises in the Philippines Anything But “Humanitarian”

  • by

Press Statement
April 8, 2011
Reference: Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson, BAYAN USA

Balikatan Exercises in the Philippines Anything But “Humanitarian”

Filipino-Americans, under the banner of BAYAN USA, join the people’s clamor in the Philippines and the United States calling for the withdrawal of US troops engaged in imperialist military aggression abroad, such as in Libya and in the Philippines. Not even the ruse of so-called “humanitarian intervention” can conceal the bloodthirsty character of US war and occupation abroad to expand US hegemonic control. This week’s dispatch of 3000 US troops to the Philippines for the 27th installment of the Balikatan (“Shoulder-to-Shoulder”) joint military exercises is a reminder of how the US imperial brand of “democracy” works in the most insidious of ways.

The US-Aquino government’s PR spin over the 10-day Balikatan exercises that began this week having a focus on disaster relief training reflects the US government’s shift from an “enemy-centric” approach to intervention to a “population-centric” approach, as stipulated in the US government’s counter-insurgency (COIN) guide. By touting a thrust toward civic projects over the failed Bush Doctrine of counter-terrorism, the US military applies a soft-hand overture in order to convince the Filipino and American people that permanent US military presence and control over the Philippines is acceptable and friendly. But 12 years under the bilateral military policy under which the Balikatan exercises fall– the US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)– has proven otherwise.

Formerly established as a direct colony of the US after the bloody Philippine-American War of 1899, the Philippines continues to suffer immensely as a semi-colony of the US and under the thumb of the US military. With this comes a modern-day master-puppet type relationship reflective in all bilateral economic and military agreements between the US and Philippine governments. In addition to being trapped in a chronic state of economic deficit and poverty under neoliberal globalization, 112+ year US military stranglehold over the Philippines continues with the VFA, whose history is laden with the memories of Filipino women such as Suzette “Nicole” Nicolas gang raped by US marines and the US military’s immunity from prosecution, of Filipina women and children driven by poverty to service US military personnel as prostitutes, of the disrespect and destruction of Philippine patrimony, of documented sightings of US military personnel illegally engaged in direct combat in the country, and even of the unresolved deaths of Filipinos within the vicinity of the US military such as that of translator Gregan Cardeno.

The US hand in the Philippines can also be seen through the steady cash flow of US military aid towards the former bloody counter-insurgency campaign Oplan Bantay Laya under the Arroyo administration and now the new counter-insurgency campaign Oplan Bayanihan under the Aquino administration. As is the case with the US military aggression in Libya, no amount of talk of humanitarianism can discard what the people of Libya and the Philippines see before their eyes as a result of US intervention– widespread bloodshed of civilians and consolidation of US power over the region.

As part of the ongoing struggle of the Filipino people against US imperialism, Filipinos in the US stand in solidarity with the Libyan people suffering directly from a newly-launched US war of aggression motivated by the US ruling elite’s quest for profitability and a path out of the economic crisis. Filipinos in the US also stand with the American working majority who are suffering from a growing spread of fascist and racist legislation across the country and deadly cuts on public spending in favor of the US war and occupation abroad.

But what the US war machine fails to remember is the unending people’s resistance it meets wherever it launches an attack, as is the case currently in the Philippines, Libya, and other regions of the world. In this time of the worsening global economic crisis spawned by imperialism and the overstretching of the US war machine, the heightening class struggle gives birth to people’s liberation movements that advance considerably, winning victories such as the fall of the tyrannical regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. It is the linking of people’s resistance around the globe under the banner of international solidarity against US intervention and hegemony that poses the biggest and most decisive threat to the US war machine.

US Troops Out of the Philippines and Asia!
US Troops Out of Libya and the Middle East!
Junk the VFA!
Stop US Military Aid to the Philippines!
Long Live International Solidarity!