By Tonyo Cruz
Hundreds of thousands of young Americans marched in Washington, DC, and cities elsewhere in America saw similar big crowds of students, in what was dubbed March for our Lives.
I offer my salute to these young people, and likewise extend this request that they expand their horizon even further to include us here in the Philippines and other places.
I’m not merely referring to the other killings in the wars against drugs and against the communists. To be specific, I wish to remind fellow Filipinos and our friends in the US about the continued US military aid to the Philippine government, including bullets, guns and other arms, bombs and war equipment. That’s aside from American taxpayer money given to fascist Philippine governments.
Since the violent and forcible US occupation of the Philippines at the turn of the last century, our nation has been told and made to believe that US military aid and protection was for our own good. This belief is reinforced by colonial education and by colonial media, and this is a policy formalized by treaties and agreements, with some dating back to the late 1940s when the Philippines obtained nominal independence.
“We have been providing very important equipment to the Philippines for many, many years,” said American Ambassador Sung Kim in 2017 as Duterte restarted friendships with US rivals Russia and China.
“The fact that the Chinese and the Russians have provided some rifles, I’m not sure is really such a cause for concern for the United States,” Kim added.
A 2012 Reuters report said: “Since 2002, the Philippines has received nearly $500 million in military aid from the United States, according to the US embassy in Manila. The amount does not include the transfer of 20 reconditioned helicopters, a Cyclone-class ship, and a Hamilton-class cutter.”
Human rights groups and multisectoral coalitions have assailed Duterte over brutal slays that have victimized nearly 20,000 people.
Like Aquino and his other predecessors, Duterte has allowed American troops to roam around parts of the country, set up military bases in Philippine military camps, and help direct counterinsurgency and counterterrorism campaigns.
In one of the most brutal episodes of Aquino’s regime, American troops were seen at Mamasapano. In Duterte’s short stint, he welcomed US intervention in Marawi.
We hold the Aquino and Duterte regime’s accountable for the killings and massacres. But we also hold the US regimes of Bush, Obama, and Trump for enabling, equipping, financing, and cheering them on.
Just last year, Duterte unleashed an attack on “about a few dozen” terrorists in our beautiful Islamic city of Marawi. What started as an operation to serve warrants of arrests became a full-scale mini-war that destroyed Marawi.
Media quoted Ambassador Kim as saying that “US military assistance made a ‘huge difference’ in the battle in Marawi, particularly its intelligence support, including with the deployment of Gray Eagle and P-3 Orion aircraft.”
The same report said “Philippine military chief General Eduardo Ano said the US technical support ‘tilted the balance’ because ‘we had a very hard grasp of the situation in the early days’ until information flowed and helped defeat the militants.
“The United States also provided information that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave $1.5 million in January for the attack on Marawi,” Ano further said.
The United States has for decades been the Philippines’ defense treaty ally and its biggest source of hardware and training, providing about $1 billion in equipment since 2000, the report said.
The Philippines has long been called the US military outpost in this part of the world. And that has meant US military aid Marcos and Duterte, Arroyo and Aquino. And despite that military aid, we continue to be insecure — losing control on some of our islands and parts of our seas to Chinese.
I am sure the young people the world over also support you, young people of America, in decrying gun violence in your country and the tight grip of the gun lobby on the American government.
But do understand too that America doesn’t exist in a vacuum and what you believe as the goodness of America has not been quite true not just to you but to us in the Philippines and many other so-called client-states of Washington.
You denounce the NRA, we condemn the US military-industrial complex. You demand an end to gun violence, we aspire for fairer relations with the US. We unite in the call for authentic democracy and under the banner of international solidarity against a common enemy – US imperialism which lives off victims of gun violence in America and wars of intervention in countries such as ours.
May the stories of Kian delos Santos, Hideyoshi Kawata, Joshua Cumilang, Jeff Bunuan, Carl Arnaiz, Roman Manaois, Rowena Tiamson, Obello Bay-ao, and many other Filipino youth find their way in your hearts and minds.