The RP-US Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA), a 10-year old military pact that requires the Philippines to service the logistics needs of the US military when they are in the country, is set to expire by November 2012. The MLSA, along with the VFA and MDT, is a vital cog in the permanent and continuing US military presence in the country. Its expiry this year occurs at a time when the US and Philippine governments are in negotiations for additional US troop presence in the country in line with the new US defense strategy of “re-balancing” towards Asia.
Not as well known as the Visiting Forces Agreement, the MLSA is an executive agreement entered into by the Arroyo regime in 2002 and was in effect for five years. It was renewed in November 21, 2007 after a review that was not disclosed to the public. It is set to expire on November 21, 2012.
The MLSA allows the US military to access Philippine facilities for a wide array of services such as refueling, re-supply, billeting of troops, transportation and so on. It practically allows the US to avail of the services that are typical of US bases, so long as these are during “approved activities”.
Under the MLSA, the Philippine government provides supplies such as food, water, petroleum, oils, lubricants, clothing, ammunition, spare parts and components.
Support and services include billeting, transportation (including airlift), communication services, medical services, operations support (and construction and use of temporary structures incident to operations support), training services, repair and maintenance services, calibration services, storage services, and port services. Storage units and ports shall at all times remain under the control and supervision of the host state
January 2012 marks the 10th anniversary of the Balikatan 02-1 or Operation Enduring Freedom Philippines which placed for the first time US troops in Mindanao. Since January 2002, US troops have been permanently stationed in Mindanao, particularly the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines operating under the US Special Operations Command. US military presence in Mindanao is now longer than their deployment in Iraq. The Aquino government has merely continued the policy first started by the Arroyo regime, making it no different from the GMA regime in terms of its pro-US policy.
In 2002, the Philippines was tagged by the US as the “second front” in the “war on terror”, and Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines was launched against the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiya that was purportedly training in Mindanao. The US has since engaged in various activities not defined in the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement including joining combat operations.
The US justifies their basing in Mindanao by saying that their presence was requested by the Philippine government. But as a New York Times report in August 2009 showed, the decision to retain US troops in Mindanao was a unilateral move announced by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Unlike in Iraq, there is no time-table for the pull-out of US troops in Mindanao. There are no clear parameters on how they will consider their mission ‘accomplished’. Clearly, the US government is circumventing a constitutional prohibition on US bases. The Philippine Constitution is clear, no foreign military bases absent a treaty ratified by both governments.
New US strategy focuses on Asia-Pacific
After 17 months in confinement, Bradley Manning will appear before court on December 16, for an Article 32 pretrial hearing, his lawyer announced today.
The hearing, expected to last 5 days, will take place at Fort Meade, Maryland and will be held publicly “with the exception of those limited times where classified information is being discussed”.
The primary purpose of this hearing is to evaluate the US Government’s case against Manning.
Supporters will be outside the Court as he arrives, for a demonstration also tied to the celebration of his 24th birthday on the following day, December 17.
This is a "WikiLeaks News Update", a news update of stories relating directly to WikiLeaks and also freedom of information, transparency, cybersecurity, and freedom of expression.
Update: Former and current WikiLeaks associates Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Jacob Appelbaum and Rop Gonggrijp's twitter records are to be disclosed, U.S. District Court Judge Liam O’Grady ruled today. The unsealing of docketing information pertaining to the case, and of relevance in the context of the Grand Jury investigation on WikiLeaks, was however refused.
Jacob Appelbaum reacted to the decision with the words: Today is one of those "losing faith in the justice system" kind of days.
The October 26 visit to the Philippines of US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Kurt Campbell should be viewed as significant, coming as it is 6 years after the Subic rape incident involving four US Marines and a Filipina. Of course the US would now argue that no rape ever took place and proof of this was the acquittal of the principal accused, Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, by an appeals court which reversed an earlier conviction by a lower court. The acquittal of course was surrounded by questionable circumstances.
But beyond the verdict of the courts, what the Subic rape incident did was expose the lopsidedness of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement. The VFA, which was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999 (but not by the US Senate), sets the legal framework for the treatment of visiting US troops.
On November 1, 2005, a Filipina was allegedly raped inside a van and then left half-naked on the sidewalk in the former Subic US military base. Four visiting American soldiers were arrested. Their defense: only one of them engaged in consensual sex with the victim. The victim meanwhile said she was intoxicated and tried to resist the sexual advances of Smith. The other US soldiers cheered as the rape took place.
The Subic rape case triggered a controversial custody issue involving Smith, the US embassy and the Philippine government. While a Philippine court took jurisdiction over the rape case, Smith and his co-accused Staff Sergeant Chad Carpentier, Lance Corporal Keith Silkwood, and Lance Corporal Dominic Duplantis were placed under the custody of the US embassy in Manila because this was what the VFA supposedly mandated.
When a guilty verdict was issued by a Regional Trial Court, Smith was handed a life sentence and ordered detained at the Makati City Jail. His three other co-accused were acquitted and were immediately spirited out of the country back to Okinawa.
Resuming daily WikiLeaks notes after a two-week interruption, with Cablegate and WikiLeaks-related news published within the last two weeks having received significant coverage, ordered by date ; followed by a list of links to other Cablegate stories.
25/9 Canada paid ransom to free diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay from al-Qaeda in 2009, cables show.
24/9 An unrevised draft of Julian Assange’s memoirs, ghost-written by Andrew O’Hagan, is being distributed without Julian Assange’s consent by Canongate.
In a statement Julian describes the circumstances that lead to the unauthorized publication:
...I am not “the writer” of this book. I own the copyright of the manuscript, which was written by Andrew O’Hagan. By publishing this draft against my wishes Canongate has acted in breach of contract, in breach of confidence, in breach of my creative rights and in breach of personal assurances. The US publisher, Knopf, withdrew from the deal when it learned of Canongate’s intentions to publish without my consent. This book was meant to be about my life’s struggle for justice through access to knowledge. It has turned into something else. The events surrounding its unauthorised publication by Canongate are not about freedom of information — they are about old-fashioned opportunism and duplicity—screwing people over to make a buck.
Just recently, the United States Ambassador in Manila inaugurated a $26 million dollar nuclear detection facility at the Port of Manila, a project aimed at combating the proliferation of nuclear weapons and radioactive material.
The public relations event however may be deemed as part of US nuclear hypocrisy when one considers the historical relations the Philippines had with the US and its nuclear weapons and military bases.
Based on a declassified document from the independent non-governmental organization National Security Archive based in the George Washington University, the US government had secretly stored nuclear weapons in the Philippines, during the time of the Marcos dictatorship.
According to the “Top Secret” document issued in 1969 from the US State Department, Marcos was informed of the storage of nuclear weapons in the Philippines (presumably in the former US bases) as early as 1966 but that the secret storage of nuclear weapons had been going on for "many years".
The memo said that “divulgence of the fact that nuclear weapons are stored in the Philippines, and have been there for many years without prior consultation with the Philippine government, would greatly jeopardize US-Philippine relations, particularly on the eve of presidential elections scheduled on October 11.”
The Philippines previously hosted two of the largest overseas military bases of the US, the Clark Air Base and the Subic Naval Base. Both were used extensively during the Vietnam War as well as the first Gulf War.
The US used "terrorist-listing" as a way to influence the peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Philippines (GPH)
Confidential and secret cables released by Wikileaks from the US embassies in Manila and The Hague in the Netherlands show how three governments worked together to designate as “terrorist” Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in peace talks with the Manila government. The move may have been part of Philippine government’s pressure tactics on the NDFP during peace negotiations. However, the move did not yield the Philippine government’s desired results.
Sison, the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army were included in the US terror list in August 2002, right after the Manila visit of then Secretary of State Colin Powell. Sison was soon after also included on the EU “terrorist list” of organizations and individuals with sanctions upon the requests of the US and PH governments. His bank account was subsequently frozen, denying him social benefits accorded to refugees living in the Netherlands.
Terrorist-listing as leverage
The US, Dutch and Philippine governments engaged in acts that were inimical to the peace talks between the NDFP and the Philippine government. The Philippine government used the terrorist listing as leverage against the NDFP. There was intense pressure was brought to bear on Sison: from the deprivation of social benefits, threats to his life, and even arrest and detention. The matter of the terrorist listing became a prejudicial question in the peace talks.
In a 2005 meeting (05MANILA655) with US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said that the NPA’s “delisting as a foreign terrorist organization depended on a demonstration or proof of sincerity… such as entering into a cease-fire or new peace talks.”
Various media outlets since yesterday have reported on a secret US embassy cable showing a Norwegian third-party facilitator in the peace process between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Philippine government discussing details of the peace talks with a representative of the US embassy in Manila. The cable puts to question Norway’s avowed impartiality in the peace processes it is involved in.
In the cable marked “Secret” because of the sensitivity of the conversation, Norwegian Special Envoy Vegar Brynildsen met with US embassy political officers on February 3, 2010 to discuss Norwegian efforts to facilitate peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. (10MANILA235)
The cable carried a “Strictly protect” clause since Brynildsen was seriously concerned that discussion of his meeting “could call into question the discretion of the Norwegian facilitators”.
Media outlets who reported on this particular cable focused on Byrnildsen’s observations on the peace process, the NDFP, its chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison and the Left’s participation in 2010 Philippine presidential elections. Byrnildsen commented that Sison appeared “not in control” of the movement in the Philippines, citing alleged differences between the Europe-based negotiators and the Philippine-based leadership.
The NDFP represents the revolutionary movement that has been waging a four-decade long “people’s war” against the Philippine government and US imperialism. Sison, the NDFP’s chief political consultant, was previously listed as a “terrorist” by the US and EU. In 2009, the European Court of First Instance removed Sison’s name from the EU list.
Byrnildsen said it was a “real challenge” to work as facilitator while not knowing the inner workings of the NDFP. He also said that he was not “positively impressed with the quality of Philippine government intelligence on the NDFP”.
This is a "WikiLeaks News Update", a daily news update of stories that are obviously related to WikiLeaks and also freedom of information, transparency, cybersecurity, and freedom of expression. All the times are GMT.
* Absolutely extraordinary cable on Indian extrajudicial assassinations 'encounter killings'.
* Georgia expresses concern over 2010 increase in Russian arms shipments to Armenia.
* WikiLeaks Cable Shows US Embassy Believed Jakarta Election Was ‘Rigged’.
* Tantawi sucking up to centcom in 2006, said "simple" Egyptians don't understand benefits of US-Egypt relationship.
10:35 PM Muammar Gaddafi was a key financier of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing and offered support to terrorist groups world wide.
Excerpt of a U.S. diplomatic cable from 1991:
"On rare occasions the Libyans have used couriers to deliver money to terrorist organizations; the transfer usually occurs in a third country"
This is a "WikiLeaks News Update", a daily news update of stories that are obviously related to WikiLeaks and also freedom of information, transparency, cybersecurity, and freedom of expression.
* Saudi King Abdullah "must have had a hand" in forced divorce verdict, maybe to "set an example".
* An entire report of the involvement of Greece and Souda bay military base on the Iraq war.
* Palestine Authority pursuit of Israel through the ICC would be viewed as war by Israel.
* Greeks were told that US base in Crete had no involvement with NATO bombing. Truth: it supplied fuel to B52.
* Israeli official: "We don't do Gandhi well" in reference to how Israel deals with nonviolent protests.
* "Unrest December 2009 Athens - What happened" : A full report from US embassy cables.
* U.S. Ambassador : "Singapore elects, um selects its President".
Today’s release of all Wikileaks cables included the complete set of cables from the US embassy in Manila. Most interesting are the cables that deal with meetings between the Philippine government and the US embassy in the context of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s fight for political survival amid allegations of election fraud. Cables reveal that ranking Arroyo government officials were already contemplating the declaration of a state of emergency to crackdown on opposition groups.
In 2005, wiretapped phone conversations involving the president and an election official were leaked to the public. Malacanang at first tried to deny the authenticity of the tapes yet at the same time sought to suppress their dissemination. In the tapes, Arroyo was asking Comelec commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to help secure her 1 million vote lead over nearest rival Fernando Poe, Jr.
In a confidential US embassy cable dated June 17, 2005, the US embassy candidly acknowledged that the voice on the “Garci tapes” was that of the president. “Garcillano could be a key witness. He is apparently the person President Arroyo is speaking with in the audiotape,” the cable said.
“Snippets of the tapes featuring what certainly seems to be the President’s voice have even been re-mixed with music to make what is becoming a very popular ring tone for cell phones,” the embassy noted.
However, in an earlier cable, the US embassy said it received transcripts of the “Garci tapes” several weeks before their release, but noted there was no smoking gun to link Malacanang to election fraud.
In the same cable, it was revealed that the Arroyo government, through two officials, suspected the US of involvement in the release of the Garci tapes but the US embassy was quick to deny this.
Thousands took to the streets to demand Arroyo’s ouster or resignation. A broad anti-Arroyo united front had taken shape.
Emergency rule now an option
From 2004-2010, the Philippines witnessed one of the worst waves of human rights violations in its history. Hundreds of activists were killed or abducted. Hundreds more were arrested and faced with trumped-up charges. The magnitude of the abuses caught the attention of the international community. The issue also further isolated the regime of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The main suspects in the killings and disappearances were state security forces.
There were numerous embassy cables on the US position regarding extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. My own estimate is that there were more than 40 cables that referenced extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. These cables ranged from scenesetters for visiting US officials, to actual reports on the actions taken by the US embassy and the Philippine government on EJK’s.
But while there were strong statements of concern to address the killings of activists and journalists, the US continued to provide economic and military aid to the Arroyo government. While the US said “there’s more that needs to be done”, the US also noted progress in the human rights situation as well as Arroyo’s “seriousness” in addressing the problem.
The Philippines remains the biggest recipient of military aid in this region of Asia, receiving some $30 million annually in Foreign Military Financing, education and training as well as Excess Defense Articles. Human rights issues in the country must be taken in the context of US support for Philippine security forces. With the nationwide phenomenon of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, a feat that can only be accomplished by state security forces, there is a valid perception that US tax dollars funding of human rights abuses committed by the AFP.