30 Jul, 2002
ISM Foreign Delegates tell GMA: We are not liars, and your anti-communist attacks will not deter us from exposing the truth
The 40 foreign delegates of the International Solidarity Mission (ISM) and their 25 local counterparts today joined the 1,200-participants of the Lakbay Kalinaw Peoples Caravan led by the Bagong Alayansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and the US Troops, Out Now! Coalition in a rally against the Balikatan exercises and the continued armed intervention of the United States in the Philippines.
Todays protest actions caps the activities and itinerary of the ISM which began July 24 with a press conference in Quezon City. The ISMs foreign participants come from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Taiwan, and the United States. They have visited Zamboanga City, General Santos City and Basilan from July 25 to 28, 2002 to support for the Filipino peoples struggle against the presence of US troops and to carry out a basic fact-finding mission.
New York civil rights attorney David Pugh said that during their stay they met hundreds of people, both supporters of US military presence and those who have suffered serious human rights abuses during the US-led Balikatan 02-2.
On our trip we have seen sufficient proof and heard shocking testimony that allows us to draw the following conclusions: 1) there is direct US involvement in the shooting of an unarmed civilian, 2) the military practically have usurped the function of the police and local government officials in the localities, 3) human rights abuses continue unabated, and 4) there have been a number of innocent Moro and Christian civilians killed and dozens arbitrarily imprisoned, he said. Pugh said that the return of US troops in the Philippines on the pretext of military exercises and training for soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is actually part of the bogus war on terrorism of the Bush administration. Using the September 11 attacks as a pretext, the US government has intensified repressive policies domestically virtually abolishing civil liberties with Muslims as scapegoats, he said.
The most important case, and the one that has drawn national and international media attention, is the shooting of unarmed civilian Buyong Buyong Isnijal by a US soldier in the small town of Tuburan on the island of Basilan. His wife and his mother stood before a hundred fellow citizens and ISM members to denounce what happened around midnight of July 25 when a composite team of Filipino and American soldiers raided their home without any warrant. The wounded Isnijal was taken by the military after the incident and his family was left uninformed about his whereabouts.
Pugh said that the Philippine government under Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyos vicious attempts to undermine and dismiss the findings of the ISM will not deter the delegates from proclaiming their findings and continuing to ferret out the true objectives of the US military in the Philippines.
Pres. Arroyo has attacked the ISM and its lead organizers Reps. Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, but what she doesnt see and wont admit is that the ISMs findings were not discovered by these two individuals but the entire ISM delegation. Shes saying that this is all communist propaganda, that what weve been saying is all fabrication, lies weve concocted to discredit the military and to support the Abu Sayyaf. But this is not true. We have seen for our own eyes the victims of the abuses of the AFP. We have heard testimonies coming from ordinary, impoverished people whose only fault is to be Muslim and to be in the wrong places at the wrong times.
Pres. Arroyo, we may be foreigners in this country but we share with Filipinos the very humane struggle for justice and the respect of human rights. We will not be dismissed as liars. We will not have our findings maligned and twisted by your spin-doctors and military advisers. We have seen and heard, and all this we will expose at whatever costs, said Pugh.
A Brown Fall Guy
He said that the counter-evidence and counter-testimonies the Southcom were presenting were laughable. They produced a fall guy – a Sergeant Joel Millarosa who somewhat fits the description of the US troop who shot Buyong Buyong, but not quite. Millarosas brown, and not black, and the witnesses say that the soldier who shot Buyong Buyong had very black skin, And in any case, why would a Filipino soldier yell sit down, sit down! to fellow Filipinos? And this fall guy says Buyong Buyong attacked him with a bolo. Who does he have to corroborate his outrageous lies? He must have been paid to say these things. And why is it that he has only spoken up now? Hes simply not credible. The SouthCom is resorting to ridiculous and unscrupulous tactics in its desperation to cover up for the US troops involved, including the one named Reggie Lane," he said.
Contradictory and inconsistent reports
New York law student Matthew Parham decried the fact that US troops have been directly involved in a military operation, which is in fact a police matter, in blatant violation of the Terms of Reference guiding the presence of US troops.
The contradictory statements of the US military officials further indicates that theyre hiding something. Was Mr. Buyong Buyong wanted as a common criminal or as an ASG? Did US military personnel take him to the hospital or not? The officials cant get their story straight. This confusion stems from the fact that they have been caught red-handed violating the TOR and are tripping all over themselves to produce an effective cover-up.
The highest ranking US military commander ignored the requests of the US delegation for a meeting to discuss the ISMs findings, but his subordinates gave the delegates the run around. He gave us a number, but when we called it, we found it was disconnected. The second instance, someone hang-up on us when we introduced ourselves, said Rev. Dan Dale of the United Church of Christ of the US. The refusal to meet us gives even more credibility to our findings that the US is involved in this incident, he said.
Los Angeles journalist Scott Schaeffer said that presence of the US troops anywhere in the world is a danger to civilian populations. Their operations here expose the true character of the US military. This kind of incident will most likely happen time and again so long as US troops in the Philippines, he said.
Powells MLSA mission
Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo in the meantime said that despite the reports that US troops are already leaving, the ISM has discovered that the US military will not be leaving as promised.
It has been announced that 160 special operation forces of the US military will be staying behind after July 31 in Basilan and in Sulu, where aerial bombings and massive troop military operations have already wrought considerable havoc on the lives of the people. We have also learned that the presence of US troops in Mindanao has spread to the north, with 1700 US troops currently active in Central Luzon, particularly around the former US bases of Clark and Subic, he said. Ocampo said that US Foreign Secretary Colin Powell is expected to finalize the new US-Philippines Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) during a trip to the Philippines on August 2 and 3. This will extend, expand and consolidate the growing US presence in the archipelago and secure the stationing of US military troops and war materiel.
Finally, Atty. Pugh said that its evident that the US military intervention in the Philippines makes part of the US intensified drive for further consolidation of its world hegemony, its real target is definitely not the ASG.
Theres a hidden agenda here, and its the establishment of permanent military presence so the Philippines can be used as a launching pad for attacks against the peoples of Asia and beyond. At the same time US military presence is directed against all domestic forces opposed to US domination and exploitation, including the New Peoples Army (NPA), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and even the local human rights and cause-oriented groups, he said.