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Clinton visit to the Philippines signals more troops, more military aid, more human rights abuses

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Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary General, BAYAN-USA

BAYAN-USA casts suspicion on the upcoming visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Philippines this Thursday, November 12, saying that the so-called goodwill gesture could really be a Trojan Horse that unleashes a new wave of U.S. military troops and funding into the Philippines at a time when human rights violations are at an all-time high.  “Obama pledged support to the Visiting Forces Agreement when he met with Arroyo, Gates announced the indefinite presence of at least 600 U.S. troops in Mindanao when he came to the Philippines, so why should we expect anything different from Clinton?” said BAYAN-USA Chair Berna Ellorin.  “The Obama administration is clearly reinforcing the existing neo-colonial relations between the two countries, despite its rhetoric of change.”

Clinton’s visit comes on the heels of mixed messages emanating from the State Department in recent days; on October 27, Raymond Richhart, head of the State Department’s East Asia desk, told to Philippine Congressman Neri Colmenares that the U.S. would be withholding $2 Million in military aid to the Philippines this year because of the Arroyo government’s failure to comply with human rights conditions set on the aid.  However, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo reported yesterday that the Obama administration requested that Congress lift the human rights conditions on the $2 Million in military aid for the Philippines in the proposed U.S. appropriations act for next year.

“The restrictions on even that small amount of aid were fought for by Filipino Americans, the faith community and human rights advocates.  Clinton needs to explain why the administration would defy the will of its constituents and ignore the 1,093 dead bodies of people slaughtered by the Philippine military under Arroyo,” stated Ellorin.   BAYAN-USA expects Arroyo to press for the maximum amount of military aid to prop up her presidency and continue carrying out Oplan Bantay Laya 2, just as Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro lobbied for both the VFA and more military aid when he visited the U.S. in September.  “The fact is that the Oplan Bantay Laya 2counterinsurgency operation is fueling the military’s human rights atrocities.  Congress and the State Department should think twice before they release any aid to the Philippines, if they don’t want innocent blood on their hands,” said Ellorin

BAYAN-USA contends that the restriction of a token amount of aid will never seriously address the human rights crisis as long as the Visiting Forces agreement remains in place.  After its enactment in 1999, the Visiting Forces Agreement ushered in tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers, advisors, and special operatives, who have been accused of engaging in illegal combat operations under the guise of military exercises, a claim substantiated by eyewitness accounts, Philippine military personnel, and U.S. military publications themselves.  Nearly $1 billion worth of military aid and materiel has flowed into the Philippines under the auspices of the Visiting Forces Agreement.  “Withholding $2 Million is like taking away a single bullet from a gunman you’ve armed with a whole arsenal of ammunition,” commented Ellorin.

“By maintaining the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Obama administration is guaranteeing that the human rights crisis will continue,” said Ellorin.  “It is criminal that President Obama called Arroyo to pledge his support for the VFA this year and that Senator Inouye requested an increase in military aid to the Philippines next year, when the extrajudicial killings are on the rise and an American citizen, Melissa Roxas, was abducted and tortured by the Philippine military.”

“A year ago, the American people voted for change.  When it comes to U.S. policy toward the Philippines, all we’ve gotten is more of the same,” said Ellorin.  “The change we will fight for is an end to U.S. military presence and intervention in the Philippines, the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement, and the complete termination of military aid for the Philippines.”