Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New York Pinoys Demand US Troops Out of Mindanao and Philippines

Press Release

New York Pinoys Demand US Troops Out of Mindanao and Philippines

Reference: Yancy Mark Gandionco, Vice-Chairperson Anakbayan NY/NJ
Email: anakbayan.nynj@ Phone: 646 578 7390

Union Square, New York- The echo of gongs and kulintangs cut through the city soundscape as Filipinos gathered in the historic Union Square in Manhattan on a cold afternoon of February 29, 2001. Members from Anakbayan NY/NJ, New York Committee for human rights, International Action Center and concerned performers from Kinding Sindaw, a dance theatre ensemble, showed their indignation for the February 4 Sulu massacre, the militarization of Mindanao and the presence of US troops in the Philippines.

"We are here, despite the cold, in unity with our brothers and sisters in Mindanao. Our hearts goes to the families of the innocent victims of the brutal February 4 Sulu massacre. We seek justice for them. We are most furious at the fact that US troops have been sighted during this atrocity and we believe that to insist on conducting the US-RP Balikatan military exercises in Mindanao would only be inciting war and more bloodshed in the Island." Jonna Baldres of Anakbayan NY/NJ stated.

The US-RP Balakitan Military Exercises which is regularly held in parts of Luzon, is now done in Sulu. This exercise is specifically to target remnants of Abu Sayaf group in Sulu. The Balikatan 03-1, promises Military trainings and war games in the area between Filipino and US troops.

"It is still fresh in our minds the things these US troops did and left in the places where they base, temporarily or permanently. They bring with them, prostitution and degradation of our women, toxic wastes, diseases, human rights violations, and even death." Potri Ranka Manis of Kinding Sindaw said.

The demonstration was a response to a recent happening in the Philippines. Last February 4, 2008, the Philippine Army's Light Reaction company (LRC), the Navy's Special Weapons Group and with US troops nearby attacked and killed 8 villagers of Baranggay Ipil, Maimbong Sulu. Civilian vicims were Marisa Payian, age 4; Wadme Lahim, age 9; Alnalyn Lahin, age 15; Ulayman Hakob, age 17; Kirah Lahim, age 45; Eldisim Lahim, age 43; and Narcia Abon, age 24. Also Killed was Pfc. Ibnul Wahid of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, who was then on vacation.

"It was a legitimate encounter with the Abu Sayyaf and that is according to the report and findings of the JAGO, the team that investigated the killings." Army Major Eugene Batara, a regional military spokes­man

Potri Ranka Manis remarked, "The victims were not members of the Abu Sayaff group. They are innocent victims of military incompetence and state fascism. Historically, the moro people because of their great sense for self determination and freedom, have been marginalized by foreign invaders and the Philippine Government. Let us not forget, Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak where thousands of moros fought to the death against the American colonizers for their land and freedom. Now more than a century later, the similarities are shocking with witness attesting to the presence of US troops during the incident. Justice must be served and US Troops and military presence must be ceased in Southern Philippines"

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