ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 20, 2010) - Filipino journalists have denounced Monday the arrogance of US troops guarding an American forward military base in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines.
Journalists said they had been threatened by the soldiers during an official coverage inside the Philippine military’s Western Mindanao Command headquarters where Edilberto Adan, Executive Director of the Visiting Forces Agreement, visited.
The media watchdog National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has condemned the arrogance of the US troops. “The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemns the arrogant and totally illegal manner in which supposedly visiting American soldiers ordered Zamboanga City-based journalists to stop taking footage while covering a visit by retired general Edilberto Adan, executive director of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) Commission, on Monday.”
It said Adan’s visit, which included the headquarters of the US military’s Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines inside the Western Mindanao Command, is in line with Section 3c of Executive Order 199 mandating the VFA Commission to monitor the activities of foreign military and civilian personnel covered by the defense agreement.
NUJP Director Julie Alipala, who is based in Zamboanga, quoted a local television reporter as saying one of six American soldiers guarding the US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines headquarters told the news crew: “I am ordering you not to take footages.”
When one of the reporters asked what the basis for the order was, the American replied: “I don’t understand you but don’t make me take your camera.”
The news crew was taking footage because they were invited by the Philippine military to cover Adan’s visit.
“We maintain that foreigners still have absolutely no authority to tell Filipinos what we can or cannot do in our own country, much less threaten to confiscate their property. If they had any issue, they should have conveyed it to their local counterparts who could then have relayed these concerns to the journalists concerned.”
“As far as we are concerned, even the task force headquarters is not sovereign American territory but Philippine territory visiting foreign troops are allowed to use as part of a defense agreement,” the NUJP said.
It also urged the VFA Commission to conduct an investigation into the incident. It was not the first time this incident occured. US troops stationed in Zamboanga City and Sulu province had previously harassed journalists covering their activities. Some journalists were even arrested for taking photos and videos of patrolling US troops and visiting American military vessels and aircrafts.
US troops also discriminated local journalists and gave special treatment to foreign media covering American military propaganda in the southern Philippines.
“We believe that ultimate authority over the facility resides in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine government, unless they have conceded this authority to what would then essentially be foreign occupiers. We ask the VFA Commission to conduct an investigation into this matter for this arrogant behavior of foreign visitors goes beyond mere security concerns and strikes at the very heart of our sovereignty as a nation and a people. We also demand that the VFA Commission put the Americans in their proper place and warn them against any repetition of this arrogance. To let this incident pass is to abrogate our rights and liberties to foreigners,” the media organization said.
There had been a lot of complaints against US troops stationed in Zamboanga City, Sulu province and other parts of Mindanao because of their arrogance and cases of human rights violation. But many of these complaints had not been acted by the VFA Commission for a still unknown reason, but Adan, who was a former commander of the Southern Command headquarters now called Western Mindanao Command, is reportedly sympathetic with the American forces.
Hundreds of US troops are deployed in the southern Philippines since 2001 and have been helping the local defeat terrorism.