Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Muslim leaders call for review of VFA

Want RP-US military exercises suspended

By Jeoffrey Maitem, Charlie Señase

COTABATO CITY, Philippines--Muslim religious leaders in Mindanao have called for a review of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) the Philippines forged with the United States.

"We want a review of the VFA," Uztads Esmael Ibrahim, spokesperson of Darul Ifta (House of Opinion), told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Sunday following the Feb. 4 clash in Maimbung, Sulu, where eight civilians, including two children and a pregnant woman, were killed allegedly by US-trained Filipino soldiers.

The VFA allows US troops into the country to conduct military exercises with and train Filipino soldiers in counter-terrorism.

Sandrawina Wahid, whose vacationing soldier-husband was among those killed during the raid, issued a sworn statement, saying four American soldiers were with the Filipino soldiers.

"We condemn in the strongest terms the killing of civilians, especially the children and a pregnant woman. There must be a thorough investigation of the incident," Ibrahim said.

Julasiri Abidin, mufti of Sulu, told the Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) in a phone interview the US soldiers allegedly involved in the clash should also be investigated.

On Saturday, the military suspended more than 50 soldiers, including three officers of the US-trained Army Light Reaction Company, in connection with the killings. Civilian authorities, however, are looking for evidence of the suspension as they suspect that these soldiers may just have been transferred somewhere.

Sentiment against the holding of the joint American and Filipino military exercises has been growing.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao legislative assembly, citing "non-coordination" and "counter-productiveness" as the reasons, passed a resolution on Tuesday rejecting the RP-US "Balikatan" military exercises provided for under the VFA and Mutual Logistics Support Agreement.

The presence of the US troops has been causing fear among the local residents, said peace advocate Ali Indayla of Suara Bangsamoro.

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