QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES – Sanlakas expressed in strong terms its condemnation of the violent dispersal and illegal arrest by the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Manila Police District (MPD) of activists, Moros, and Lumads in the latter’s protest actions held at Camp Aguinaldo, October 18, and at the United States (US) Embassy, October 19.
“The group of protesters, most of whom came all the way from Mindanao, marched to the gates of Camp Aguinaldo and the US Embassy to call for an end to the militarization of their communities and for the cessation of continued US troop presence in their region,” said Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa.
“As a response to these calls for justice, state security forces greeted our Lumad and Moro brothers and sisters with violence:dispersing them with water cannons and outright mowing them down with police vans,” said Pedrosa. “This is a flagrant display of the State terrorism and police brutality -of turning against the very people it has been mandated to protect and to serve.”
According to Pedrosa, the violence witnessed in the protest actions is only one among a series of human rights abuses uffered by the Lumads and Moros back home.
“Lumads and Moros share a long history of oppression and being driven away from their communities and livelihood due to military operations in Mindanao,” said Pedrosa. “Cases of harrasment by the AFP of Lumad communities and displacement of IP and non-IP communities have been repeatedly decried and left unaddressed by our government,” he continued.
“That Indigenous peoples have to travel all the way to the capital to voice out their grievances is in itself alarming. That their protest be met with brute force is a travesty of the democratic rights the State is bound to uphold.”, Pedrosa added.
Pedrosa likewise scored the continued subservience to foreign interests and called for an independent foreign policy.
“The one-sided agreements that the Philippines has entered into with the US — from the Mutual Defense Treaty to the Visiting Forces Agreement and its more potent supplement, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement — paved the way for our military to boldly encroach upon our sovereign rights all largely for the service of US interests,” claimed Pedrosa.
“The presence of US troops has only managed to exacerbate the tension in conflict-stricken areas,” Pedrosa claimed. “This is largely because the US presence in the Philippines seeks not to promote peace in Mindanao, but to heighten US capacity for intervention within the region and within the country,” he continued.
Sanlakas claimed that the under-reported but alarming increase of US military presence in the country is a part of a larger US scheme, under its pivot to Asia strategy, to enlist countries strategically situated around those that pose threats to the US position as a superpower. Pedrosa stated that in the case of the Philippines, such threat guarded against by the US is China.
Although President Duterte has voiced indignation over the repercussions of the Philippines’ dependence on the US, military and otherwise, Pedrosa expressed great skepticism over the direction towards which Mr. Duterte plans to take this ndignation.
“President Duterte has expressed the desire for the Philippines to break away from its dependence on the US only so it could shift to dependence on new foreign forces,” said Pedrosa, as he cited Mr. Duterte’s state visit in China.
“Ours must be an independent foreign policy that does not merely take sides between two opposing forces, but stands up for the sovereign interests of the masses,” he said.– Press Release of Sanlakas, a party-list organization in the Philippines