American troops in Philippines to train soldiers with history of abuse in contested tribal area

by on January 24, 2009 · 3 comments

in Civil Rights, Media, Peace Movement, War and Peace

Americans to assist Filipino troops who locals complain disrupt their lives and lands

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr. / Visayas Bureau / First Posted 1/23/2009

ILOILO CITY, Philippines — Filipino and American troops will hold exercises for 25 days starting Monday inside a military reservation in Capiz that is being claimed by an indigenous people’s group as part of its ancestral domain.

“Balance Piston 09-1” will be held on January 26 to February 20 at the Camp Macario B. Peralta Jr. in Jamindan town, according to a press statement issued on Friday by the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.

The exercises will involve 141 personnel of the division and 31 US soldiers, mostly trainers, acting division spokesman Captain Renante Besa told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) in a telephone interview Friday.

The exercises to be held within the training area of the division headquarters will involve 11 training activities, including civic-military programs in communities near the military camp.

Besa said the military exercises will provide the soldiers an opportunity to experience and acquire knowledge and skills in modern military technology and weaponry.

The statement said the exercises will be the second to be conducted in the Visayas since 1995.

But the exercises drew condemnation from militant party-list groups and organizations.

“It is ill-advised, dangerous and condemnable,” said Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo in a telephone interview on Friday.

Ocampo noted that the exercises come just a little over a month since the House committee on national cultural communities held a hearing in Roxas City during which it heard the clamor of Tumandok tribesmen for repeal of a presidential proclamation declaring the area where the military camp is located a military reservation.

The 3rd Infantry Division occupies 33,310 hectares transformed into a military reservation in 1962 through Presidential Proclamation No. 67 issued by then President Diosdado Macapagal.

The land, considered the country’s biggest military camp next to Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, covers 16 of the 22 upland villages of Tapaz town and seven villages of Jamindan.

“The communities of Tumandok people have repeatedly complained of abuses of soldiers and disruption of their livelihood because of military trainings and operations. And now they want to bring in American troops?” Ocampo said.

During the hearing conducted in December last year, the representatives of the Tumandok complained that the presence of the military reservation has disrupted their lives, including their hunting, farming and cultural practices because the military suspects them of supporting the New People’s Army.

Military officials denied the allegations.

Major General Nestor Ochoa, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said in an interview that the allegations dated back to the Martial Law days, adding that they have not received any formal complaints in recent years.

Ocampo also noted that the exercises could be a prelude to the “direct participation” of US troops in counterinsurgency operations on Panay Island and could result in the escalation of the armed conflict there.

He cited the earlier statement issued by communist rebels that they would attack US troops in “rebel areas.”

Besa said they have informed and consulted the officials and residents of the three barangay (villages) of Jaena Norte, Agluluwang and Jaena Sur and met with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Philippine National Police, Commission on Human Rights and local government officials to ensure the safety of the participants and residents.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar OB Joe January 26, 2009 at 10:17 pm

Let us all keep watch on this spot of the globe, please!
I checked out where Capriz is on google maps, and it’s on the large island of Panay, sort of smack in the left middle of the archipelago.

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avatar HA Mike March 20, 2009 at 2:54 pm

I did Masters research where I lived with these Indigenous Peoples in the mountains for a few days (looking at resource management in regions with tenurial insecurity). These are not ambitious people. They only really want to live on the lands that their ancestors have lived on for thousands of years, but the military is prohibiting them from having anything that can carry loads (horses), or plant trees for long term crops. They constantly fear that they may be evacuated at any time, and despite claims from the military, such continued military operations and oppressions will only push these individuals in alliances that may result in future conflict. If ‘your’ military wanted to conduct operations on land promised to you by the constitution of your country, and bring in a foreign military force to assist them… I fear for these people.

If the citizens of California are interested in other atrocities on Panay… CalEn, California Energy International Ltd. (incorporated in Bermuda, but a subsidiary of the California Energy Company Inc. (CECI)) has pressured local government units to fast-track hydroelectric dams in the neighboring province of Aklan, all in Indigenous Peoples territories, using bribes to gain the consent of lowland indigenous groups who will not be affected. If you are able to generate awareness of this in California, that would be great. When American troops are in a mineral rich region suppressing impoverished indigenous peoples, and only a 8 hour hike away an American Corporation is damming rivers (no hydro-electric dam in history has ever benefited Indigenous Peoples), one must begin to wonder why extremely remote communities feel the need to defend themselves… but from whom?

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avatar Randele A. Arcilla November 2, 2010 at 7:38 am

During World War II, The United States Liberation forces of the 40th Infantry Division of the United States Army was landing the beaches at the towns in Tigbauan, Iloilo on March 18, 1945.

Since the Battle for the Liberation of Iloilo in 1945, many Filipino soldiers under the Philippine Commonwealth Army’s 61st, 62nd, 63rd and 65th Infantry Division and the 6th Replacement Battalion and the Philippine Constabulary’s 6th Infantry Regiment to around the liberated the province of Iloilo and helping Ilonggo guerrilla fighters and the American liberation forces of the U.S. Army’s 40th Infantry Division to defeated Japanese soldiers at the end of World War II.

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