We enter this February — the anniversary month of the Philippine-American War — with 125 years of anti-imperialist struggle raging in our blood. This war began on February 4, 1899 and was the first overseas invasion by the US, which was a new and expanding imperialist power. The Philippine-American war ushered in more than a century of colonial and neo-colonial violence, exploitation, and oppression. It is a war that continues to this day, in both outright and subtle ways. This 125th anniversary serves as a sharp reminder to all Filipinos that the struggle for genuine sovereignty and democracy remains unfinished — a struggle we have both inherited and must carry forward.
From the very beginning, the US acted to undermine Philippine independence. By signing a deal with Spain, it snatched victory from the Philippine revolutionary forces, who were on the verge of defeating the Spanish colonial government that had subjugated the country for more than three centuries. The two powers placed a price on the heads of the Filipino people — along with the peoples of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Guam — with the US “purchasing” the nations for $20 million from Spain.
The US sought to colonize the Philippines to gain access to raw materials and labor, expand its market overseas, and secure a geopolitical foothold in the Asia Pacific region, all with the ultimate goal of cementing its role as an imperialist power. To accomplish this, it carried out a genocidal war that killed, according to some records, over one million people out of a population of seven million. And to justify these atrocities, the US colonizers spewed vile forms of religious and racist propaganda that reduced Filipinos to “savages.”
In the succeeding years after the Philippine-American War, the US went on to establish its institutions to dominate the Philippines politically, economically, militarily, and culturally. These included the colonial government itself, military bases and a police force, a wide array of extractive and exploitative economic agreements, a pro-Western schooling system, and much more. Many of these machineries continued even after the Philippines was “granted independence” in 1946, only to be run by the Filipino ruling class of capitalists and landlords chosen by the US to serve as the country’s bureaucrats.
Today, 125 years after the US invaded our land, the Philippines remains a semi-colony. Every Philippine president since “independence” has been a puppet regime, signing economic and military agreements with the US that have had disastrous impacts on the Philippine economy, environment, and people. Neoliberal policies have driven wages down and prices up for the benefit of US corporations, who profit from paying workers inhumane wages and selling back products made from resources violently extracted from the Philippines.
The entire archipelago remains the US’ de facto military base through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The US further entrenches the Philippines as its launching pad for war by providing hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid and billions of dollars in weapons to the fascist Philippine military and police. These soldiers and weapons are now being trained on the new generation of activists and freedom fighters who, 125 years later, continue the struggle for national sovereignty against imperialism begun by the Katipunan.
In the face of unrelenting attacks, we remain ever resolute to win the war against US imperialism and its Philippine puppets. The urgency of the anti-imperialist fight cannot be underscored more, as the imperialist beast constricts its tentacles around the people of Palestine, Yemen, Haiti, and so many more. Our fight against US imperialism is the fight of all exploited and oppressed people the world over: a victory in one country is a victory for all. On this 125th anniversary of the Philippine-American War, let us all recommit to finishing the unfinished revolution, and advancing the struggle for national and social liberation in the Philippines.
US out of the Philippines!
Struggle for national democracy!