US Drone War Reaches Philippines

Some Filipino representatives have objected to encroaching US military domination

The U.S. launched a drone strike in the southern Philippines early this month that reportedly killed 15 members of the Islamic terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah, raising concerns about the legality of U.S. drones in the country.

One of those killed was reportedly Zulkifli bin Hir (aka Marwan) had a $5 million bounty on his head from the U.S. State Department. Not all of the identities of those killed were released.

The airstrike prompted angry reactions from some in the Philippines weary of U.S. breach of their sovereignty. One Philippine representative, Luz Ilagan, called for repealing the U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement and an end to U.S. military intervention in national affairs.

Ilagan also called for a probe into what she referred to as the “extensive and intensive intrusion of the U.S. military in Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operations”. She added, “If these reports are true, then U.S. troops are participating in and conducting operations beyond what is allowed in the Visiting Forces Agreement and directly transgressing our sovereignty. More importantly, their participation in these operations is a potential magnet for the Philippines’ participation in a brewing U.S.-instigated regional conflict.”

The U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement forced the closure of major U.S. military bases in the 1990’s and prohibits the U.S., the country’s former colonial ruler, from establishing a military presence. But the U.S. has not gone away since then. A 1999 agreement allowed hundreds of American troops to return in 2002 to train and arm Filipino soldiers fighting domestic militants allegedly linked to al-Qaeda.

Ilagan is right to be concerned, but in recent years U.S. support and military involvement to the Philippines has been misused by the Filipino government against its own citizens.. Numerous embassy cables released by WikiLeaks acknowledge extrajudicial killings, abductions, and false arrests perpetrated by the U.S.-trained and funded security forces.

The Obama administration has initiated an effort with the Filipino government with the aim of increasing access for U.S. warships and air force and possible for joint war drills, although reports say full U.S. bases will not be reopened. This is part of a broader imperial plan to counter China’s regional influence and an expanded military presence in the region with bases, troops, and navy warships in Australia and Singapore.

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Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for Antiwar.com.