... in response to Allowing US combat troops in PI ?, posted by Lonny on Feb 23, 2003
Like I said, there is no way that the government is going to let us go in there and shoot Filipinos and kill off the Abu’s. I think Glo would welcome having us go in and finish off the Abu Sayef for her simply because I don’t think she trusts her own military to do the job, but unfortunately it isn’t up to her. The Senate and the Supreme Court won't stand for it.
My guess on public opinion would be about a 50-50 split in favor of US troops going into combat over there, with strong support in Mindanao where they are scared to death that the gov’t will give away half the island in some stupid peace deal with the Muslims. The other half are too caught up in national pride to let it happen because it would be an insult to the Philippine military and a perceived loss of sovereignty to allow the U.S. come in and “fight their battles for them”. Besides, the church is now apparently joining forces with the leftists to oppose the U.S.
According to late news, the “combat” story was all a big misunderstanding, if you can believe that :-)
The Manila Times
Monday, February 24, 2003
Palace threatens to drop Balikatan
By Ma. Theresa Torres and Joel San Juan, Reporters
THE Philippines will call off the Balikatan in Sulu if the United States insists that its troops take part in combat missions against the Abu Sayyaf.
Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio Bunye yesterday raised the possibility that the joint military exercise, scheduled for next month, would be scrapped, saying President Macapagal-Arroyo wants to uphold the Constitution.
The Charter expressly forbids foreign troops from fighting in Philippine soil.
Last week, an official of the Pentagon was quoted as saying that the 700 or so ground troops that will take part in Balikatan will join Filipino troops in hunting down the Abu Sayyaf.
Bunye denied the official’s statement, saying that American soldiers will only train and advise their Filipino counterparts.
“I can assure you, there will be no joint military exercises if the US insists on a combat operation (because) the President wanted a military exercise that is in accordance with the Constitution,” Bunye said.
Section 25 of the Constitution’s Transitory Provision provides that “after the expiration in 1991 of the agreement between the Philippines and the US concerning military bases, foreign military bases, troops or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose and recognized as a treaty by other contracting state.”
Even the Supreme Court allowed Balikatan 02-1 in Basilan last year on condition that US troops only provide training and advice to Filipino soldiers.
Bunye said the conflicting views on the role of American troops underscore the urgency to come up with the Terms of Reference for the Balikatan in Sulu.
“It is important that we have new terms of reference where there will be a full disclosure of its contents in which the parameters of the participation of the US troops will be defined,” Bunye said in a radio interview.
Bunye said the two governments have different definitions of the term “support.” As enunciated by US Presidential Spokesman Ari Fleischer, support that would be provided by the US government means sending combat troops to the Philippines.
Bunye said the Philippine government understands support to mean advice and training.
“Our interpretation is that they would provide training and advice to Filipino soldiers. The US troops will be under the operational supervision of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. We will not allow them to participate in the actual combat operation,” he said.
Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes yesterday left for Washington to meet with US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and discuss the details of Balikatan.
In a press briefing just before leaving, Reyes made it clear the Philippine government will be the one to decide how the exercises will be conducted.
“You know the exercises will be conducted on Philippine soil, so the Philippines will be the one to decide what will happen. The President will decide what will happen and what will be allowed to happen,” Reyes said.
During the Balikatan in Basilan, US troops were prevented from joining actual combat missions against the Abu Sayyaf but allowed to fire back at the enemy in self-defense.
House Minority Leader Carlos Padilla doubts if the US soldiers would refrain from engaging the Abu Sayyaf once they are in Sulu.
“If they are not combat troops, why are they sending us privates and soldiers? Why not generals and experts who could really assist our soldiers?” Padilla said.
He noted that the same tactics were employed by the US when it first sent military advisers to Vietnam, only to deploy thousands of troops as the war escalated.
Rep. Rolex Suplico (Iloilo) sees no problem with having American soldiers in Mindanao, as long as they do not take part in the fighting.
“I think there’s no harm if these Americans will not join in a combat. But just the same, we have to be cautious because Muslims and Americans have historical differences,” Suplico said.
Over the weekend, Muslim and Christian leaders vowed to oppose the Balikatan in Sulu, but vowed to support American initiatives for development in Mindanao.
Some 500 Muslim and Christian leaders, including Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Farouk Hussein, Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen, and Rep. Gerry Salapudin, met in the first ever Mindanao Summit of Muslim Leaders in Davao City to formulate a common stand against the recent hostilities in Central Mindanao and the arrival of American troops in Sulu.
Contrary to the claims Secretary Reyes made before the Congressional Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement that local leaders wanted the Balikatan held in Sulu, Pimentel said they were in fact against the exercises and more so now because of the possible violations of the Constitution.
“They must have something more to mind why they wanted to hold the Balikatan in Sulu and it’s not just the Abu Sayyaf,” Dilangalen said.
But Pimentel said that while the Muslim leaders opposed the Americans holding the Balikatan in Sulu, they resolved to support the peace and development initiatives of the Americans in the south.
They were apparently referring to the infrastructure developments and the English language teaching program of American soldiers in Basilan.
At the same time, Pimentel said, they decided to urge the government to stop the military’s offensive against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Central Mindanao, which they squarely blame on Reyes.