“The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) is very critical of the recent announcement of the Philippine government that US troops will be approved to operate out of additional Philippine military bases,” said Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson.
“The additional four bases make a total of nine which are covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which permit the stationing of US military personnel inside Philippine military bases. Given the history of human rights violations against Filipinos by members of both the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the United States Armed Forces, this development must be condemned by the international community.
“Important to understanding this recent announcement is the long history of the United States’ presence in the Philippines,” Murphy added. The US military played a key role in the violent takeover over the Philippines from the Philippine Republic which had defeated the previous colonial power, Spain. In this Philippine-American war of 1899-1902, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos died in combat and civilian massacres. For almost 50 years, the Philippines remained a colony of the US, and the violent force of the US military played an important role in maintaining this.
Since the nominal independence of the Philippines in 1946, the legal specifics of the US military presence in the Philippines have evolved, but US soldiers have remained ever-present in the country, providing support and training to members of the AFP. In 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected the proposed “RP-US Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace” that would have extended the presence of the US military bases at Clark and Subic by ten years. However, a different Senate voted for the VFA in 1999, allowing the US military to return in strength, trampling again the principle of national sovereignty.
“As ICHRP has reported many times,” Murphy continued, “the AFP plays a key role in the counter-insurgency operations of the Philippine government, regularly committing human rights and international humanitarian law violations against unarmed peasants, indigenous people, labor leaders, and other human rights advocates. Human rights violations against Filipinos by US soldiers have also been widely publicized, such as the 2014 murder of Jennifer Laude by US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton.
“The continued and expanding presence of the US military in the Philippines means continued US support for and participation in the violation of civil and political rights, and violation of the right to sovereignty of the Filipino people. ICHRP supports those Filipino organizations demanding an end to EDCA, and an end to all US military aid and presence in the Philippines,” concluded Murphy.