THE Manilakbayan (Mindanao People’s Journey) on Saturday said the US government is keeping more “boots on the ground” in Mindanao, where there is only a pocket terrorist threat.
The Manilakbayan said US President Barrack Obama ordered an additional 1,500 troops to augment the remaining 1,400 American troops in Iraq supposedly to fight the Islamic State (ISIS).
“As much as 6,000 US troops, or double the Iraq deployment, are stationed in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City,” Fr. Christopher Ablon, the group’s spokesperson, said.
The group travelled from Mindanao and arrived in Manila this week to expose grave human rights violations especially on indigenous peoples collectively known as Lumads. Even children’s schools are being attacked by military and paramilitary forces.
The US maintains rotational troops in the Philippines under a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in its strategic pivot to Asia. Regular local troops are being trained by US advisers.
Aside from the military deployment, the US has pumped hundreds of millions in aid for peace and development in Mindanao. Traditional clan wars of local warlords called Rido are, in effect, encouraged. Those wars have resulted in the Maguindanao massacre of 58 people, including 32 journalists.
Local and international media groups have denounced the massacre, its fifth year being commemorated this November 23 with justice and restitution still not served by the Aquino government.
After the latest military exercises conducted by the US in the Philippines, US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton was caught as the prime suspect for the murder of Jennifer Laude last October near the former US naval base in Subic, Olongapo. He remains under US custody.