Archive for the ‘WikiLeaks’ Category

Newport News Shipbuilding Aerial

A private defense contractor has posted the first US Navy-related job opening in 20 years in Subic, Zambales, Philippines. From the job description, it appears that US warships will be frequenting the former US naval base. The position of project manager is open only to US citizens and requires a Secret-level security clearance and about 15 years experience in the US Navy.

Umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), who campaigned for the rejection of the US bases in 1991, says the private contractors are being used to circumvent the Philippine constitutional ban on US bases by making it appear that military operations are mere commercial transactions. US warships, including an advanced nuclear attack submarine, have had frequent port calls in the Philippines this year.

USS New YorkThe job opening was issued by AMSEC, a subsidiary of private military contractor Huntington Ingalls Industries which is the biggest builder of nuclear and non-nuclear ships for the US Navy and Coast Guard. AMSEC is in partnership with Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines to provide maintenance, repair and logistics services to the U.S. Navy and other customers in the western Pacific region.

“For more than a century, HII has built more ships in more ship classes than any other U.S. naval shipbuilder,” HII’s website says.

“This is a part-time position with a focus on growing U.S. Navy and Military Sealift Command maintenance work at a commercial ship construction ship yard. Work hours are expected to grow as maintenance work increases, and occasional travel to the U.S. or Singapore may be required,” the AMSEC job placement says.

From this ad, it appears that the US is serious in using Subic for its warships. In a subtle way, the US is transforming a civilian facility back into a military hub through the use of private defense contractors. The use of these contractors to provide logistics and other support services for US warships may also be intended to circumvent the Constitutional ban on US bases absent a treaty ratified by the Senate. US bases were kicked out from the Philippines in 1991 and both the US and PH governments are careful not to indicate that they intend to bring back the bases now.

Instead of the US Navy itself that operates maintenance and logistics support services, they get a private contractor to do it so it won’t be so obvious that the US bases are back.

The US would make it appear that these are mere commercial transactions between the US Navy and private firms, but there is no mistaking the military character of the operations that will be conducted in Subic. The high-level security clearance and lengthy US navy experience required for the position of AMSEC project manager shows the sensitive nature of the job. The private contractor HII is the biggest producer of US nuclear and non-nuclear warships.

It won’t be long before full-blown logistics and servicing operations for US navy warships are conducted in Subic.

According to the job advertisement a successful candidate will have “a thorough knowledge of U.S. Navy readiness organizations, budgets, and leaders; a familiarity with surface ship maintenance industry competitors; and an in-depth knowledge of U.S. Navy contracts and programs. The candidate will participate in assessing shipyard repair capability, development of the strategy to grow this capability, and then drive the execution of the strategy”.

This is not the first time private military contractors have operated in the Philippines. DynCorp, a logistics provider for the US military has done work in the past for US military facilities in the Philippines, including the building of US forward bases in Mindanao. A DynCorp subsidiary recruited Filipino translator Gregan Cardeno, who later died under mysterious circumstances a day after he started work with US troops in Marawi province in Mindanao. The notorious Blackwater private military contractor was also reported by media to be operating out of Subic in the past. Private contractor Corporate Training Unit, an affiliate of Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR)-Haliburton meanwhile operated in the former Clark Airbase.

Privatize military contractors make the US government a bit removed from any direct accountability to the Philippine government. They however remain part of the US military machinery and we may be seeing their increasing involvement in the Philippines as the US shifts most of its warships to Asia in the next ten years. ###

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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

While the MLSA, on paper, does not allow the setting up of permanent US structures, the agreement allows the US military to be serviced by the Philippines during approved activities such as joint military exercises. These access and service arrangements allow the US to have all the benefits of formal bases, minus the potential political backlash in a country that booted out US bases in 1991.

Another advantage of the agreement is that it shifts the burden of spending for the hosting or servicing of US troops on countries like the Philippines. For example, the US has announced that more that some 8,000 troops in Okinawa will be redeployed to Guam, Australia and the Philippines. At the same time, the US announced that it will cut $21 billion in spending for the US base in Guam.

With the US unable to transfer the entire 8,000 troops to Guam, it will rely on “allies” like Australia and the Philippines to share the burden and at some point, pick up the tab, of hosting some 4,000 troops. Of course the US will “pay” for these services, “in cash or in kind” as the MLSA says. Payment for services rendered to the US can take the form of “logistic support, supplies, and services of an identical, or substantially identical nature.”

Activists have assailed the VFA as an affront to Philippine sovereignty. It transforms the country’s facilities into virtual US bases. It has also been branded as one-sided since in practical terms, only the US military is provided service under the pact.

Calling it ‘mutual’ or reciprocal doesn’t really make sense since Philippine troops and ships do not travel to the US or any other US facilities to avail of similar services from the US government.

It is possible that the US and Philippine governments may seek the expansion of the scope and duration of the agreement which is renewable after every 5 years. The US and PH governments make want to revise the MLSA to make effective indefinitely, like the VFA.

They may be contemplating making the MLSA in effect indefinitely and applicable at any time, even when there are no joint military exercises or joint activities. They may try to amend provisions which prevent the US from setting up certain structures and facilities. Already the US has expressed interest in gaining access to the northernmost Philippine province of Batanes (which is nearest China) as well as the province of Cebu in Central Philippines. The US may have to set up permanent facilities to host their ships and personnel.

It is clear that under its new strategy, the US is contemplating long-term presence in the Philippines. Wikileaks in the past revealed the US wanted dual-use airports, for civilian and military use, in Southern Philippines. US forces have been stationed in Mindanao for a decade now.

It does not help  that any review conducted on the MLSA will not likely be made public. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has never disclosed any of the details of any review, whether the MLSA or the VFA. Details of the negotiations with Washington for the stationing of more US troops in the country have also been kept under wraps.

In March this year, the US State Department and Department of Defense will meet their Philippine counterparts in a meeting in Washington. The meeting comes just before the biggest PH-US joint military exercises called Balikatan (shoulder to shoulder) slated to take place in April in different parts of the Philippines. Perhaps then we will get an idea of the future of the MLSA and US military deployment in the country. ###

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 such as joining combat operations and conducting intelligence work.

The US justifies their basing in Mindanao in 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

The new US defense strategy for 2012, released last January 3 by US President Barrack Obama, will ensure permanent US military presence in the Philippines. According to Obama, “we will focus on a broader range of challenges and opportunities, including the security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific”.

Download new US Defense Strategy here

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the new strategy aims to “sustain US strategic leadership” by “emphasizing the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East”. The US Joint Force aims to be “smaller and leaner, but agile and flexible, ready and technologically advanced”.

One can say that the US force currently in Mindanao, consisting of 600 Special Forces operatives, conforms to this description.

The main document, Sustaining US Global Leadership, Priorities for 21st Century Defense, explains the rationale of the so-called “shift”.

“U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region”.

The rise of China as a global power is viewed as one of the main reasons for the emphasis in the Asia-Pacific. “Over the long term, China’s emergence as a regional power will have the potential to affect the U.S. economy and our security in a variety of ways… The United States will continue to make the necessary investments to ensure that we maintain regional access and the ability to operate freely in keeping with our treaty obligations and with international law.”

Viewed from the Philippine perspective, the conflict in the Spratlys will remain a key interest of the US since it involves China and what the US believes, rightly or wrongly, are restrictions on access to the South China Sea.

It is very likely that US troops will remain in Mindanao in the foreseeable future, based on this new strategy. The U.S. wants its forces to “conduct a sustainable pace of presence operations abroad, including rotational deployments and bilateral and multilateral training exercises” similar to the ones they have been doing in the Philippines since 2002. US forces in Mindanao, for example, are deployed on a rotational basis and are engaged in bilateral and multilateral training exercises among other activities.

The purpose of these activities is to “reinforce deterrence, help to build the capacity and competence of U.S., allied, and partner forces for internal and external defense, strengthen alliance cohesion, and increase U.S. influence”, according to the document.

The only qualifier the US made on its presence operations abroad would be fiscal constraints. “With reduced resources, thoughtful choices will need to be made regarding the location and frequency of these operations,” the document said.  One report estimated that the US spends $50 million a year to sustain its troop deployment in Mindanao.

The Western Command (WesCom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has confirmed the holding of bigger joint military exercises under the RP-US Balikatan in April this year. It will now involve enlisted men from both countries from all branches of military service.

The US also aims to project its military power amid challenges from states such as China and Iran. “In order to credibly deter potential adversaries and to prevent them from achieving their objectives, the United States must maintain its ability to project power in areas in which our access and freedom to operate are challenged. States such as China and Iran will continue to pursue asymmetric means to counter our power projection capabilities,” the document said.

The new US strategy is merely a re-echoing of the old US agenda of imposing its global dominance economically, politically and militarily. Any “shift” in strategy can be related to the US’ need to meet new regional “challenges” amid growing fiscal constraints. However, the core agenda remains the same.

Furthermore, continued US military presence in the Philippines is an affront on our country’s sovereignty, and quite the opposite of the US’ stated goals, a threat to regional stability and peace. ###

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 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.

Wikileaks cables showed that the US embassy protested Smith’s detention in a Philippine jail and put considerable pressure on the Philippine government to get Smith back in US custody pending the appeal of his case.

In a cable dated December 4, 2006 (06MANILA4880), Kenney said that she and the Deputy Chief of Mission “protested vigorously to senior GRP officials over Smith’s detention in Philippine custody.”

“In recent days and weeks, Ambassador and senior Embassy officials had underscored to senior Philippine government officials that, in the event of any convictions, the U.S. would retain custody, as provided by the VFA, until the end of all judicial proceedings, including appeals.  We have urged that Smith’s defense attorney, as well as the Philippine Department of Justice, immediately file a new motion for reconsideration of the custody issue (as well as on the verdict itself),” Kenney reported.

The US protests seemed effective since Kenney reported that “Philippine Cabinet officials are conferring with President Arroyo to seek a way out of the impasse over custody triggered by Judge Pozon’s order.  The Secretary of Justice and the Department of Foreign Affairs have released statements supporting the view that Smith should be in U.S. custody during his appeal, according to VFA”.

The US embassy and the Philippine’s DFA reached an agreement to transfer Smith back to the US embassy just a few days after his detention at the Philippine jail. The transfer sparked protests from cause-oriented groups and lawmakers. This served as a cause of action for various groups to go the Philippine Supreme Court and ask for the nullification of the VFA.

The Supreme Court, voting 9-4, upheld the constitutionality of the VFA but would go on to say that the transfer of Smith was not in accord with the VFA. The court ordered the transfer of Smith to a Philippine facility after negotiations between the US and Philippine governments. The court did not specify the timeframe of the transfer. This gave the Philippine government and Smith’s lawyers time to appeal the SC decision.

It was during this period that Smith’s appeal on his rape case with the Philippine Court of Appeals was decided. Smith was acquitted, thus making the issue of his custody moot and academic. Smith was immediately flown out of the Philippines by the US government. The acquittal was met with protests and criticism from various sectors.

VFA custody provisions remain unresolved

The Wikileaks cables clearly show that there were problems in the custody provisions of the VFA. In one embassy cable dated April 27, 2009 (09MANILA903), after the acquittal of Smith, US ambassador Kristie Kenney admitted that custody provisions of the VFA were ambiguous and that clarifications had to be made.

“Given ambiguity in the VFA about both where custody lies following initial conviction of  U.S. servicemen and detention facilities where they should be held, we believe it is important that we begin discussions on how we clarify these undesignated requirements and whether there is a more workable, less debilitating, custody process,” Kenney said

And for all its insistence of keeping custody of Smith, the US embassy admitted that it was not capable of serving as a detention facility.

“The last three-and-a-half years have clearly demonstrated that U.S. Chancery grounds are not appropriate detention facilities to hold such servicemen in custody, not least because Mission personnel have neither the resources nor expertise to serve as jailors.  We believe that the unusual situation of having a diplomatic facility as a place for detention should be clarified in future discussions with the Philippine government,” Kenney said in the confidential cable.

In the same cable, then Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo told Kenney “that he was pleased with the outcome of the case, attributing the success on the excellent collaboration the Philippine government had enjoyed with the Embassy”.

Romulo said that “with several thousand U.S. servicemen currently in the Philippines for the Balikatan bilateral (military) exercises, it was imperative that both sides completely followed the letter of the VFA”.

In another cable dated September 18, 2009 (09MANILA2000), Kenney again admitted problems with the VFA but cautioned against renegotiation.

“Post would welcome a review by US Government lawyers to determine the best approach we can take to clarify the custody provisions.  Following such a review, Mission would aim to establish this clarification through quiet discussions that would allow us to reach a common understanding with the Philippine government without the need to formally renegotiate the entire VFA,” Kenney said.

During the 2010 presidential campaign, President Benigno Aquino III promised to review the provisions of the VFA in relation to the custody of erring US troops because of the problems encountered in the Subic rape case. A review panel involving the Office of the Executive Secretary, Department of Justice and the DFA was formed but no results have been released. ###

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Yesterday, 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 smacks of US nuclear hypocrisy when one considers the historical relations we’ve had with the US and its nuclear weapons.

Based on a declassified document from the independent non-governmental organization National Security Archive based in the George Washington University, the US government had previously 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.

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 memorandum was issued in response to a Senate inquiry led by Sen. Stuart Symington into CIA operations in Laos and the storage of nuclear weapons anywhere. The memo sought to provide instructions on how to deal with questions of nuclear weapons storage and what to do if sensitive information on nuclear weapons in the Philippines would be divulged to the media.

The State Department was concerned that giving a “no comment” reply to the Senate probe would only confirm the existence of nukes in the Philippines.

The memo proposed that there was a possibility that sensitive, and potentially embarrassing information, would be leaked to the media, the State Department and Secretary of Defense will– off the record — admit to the existence of nukes in the Philippines, but will request Senate committee members not to divulge the information.

According to the memo, Marcos knew of the weapons and the US Senate sub-committee presumably knew as well.

The National Security Archive, which hosts a wide range of declassified US documents, “is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),” according to its website.

US nuclear hypocrisy is when it acts as if it is concerned with the proliferation of nuclear weapons, while on the other hand, retaining the world’s biggest stockpile of nuclear arms. It acts as if it is concerned with nuclear weapons entering the Philippines despite having secretly stored nuclear weapons in our country without informing our government.

This chapter of our history should be revisited and the US should be called to task for its deception. This is another proof on why we should never allow the return of US bases in the country.

In the inauguration, US Ambassador Harry Thomas said that “the US and the Philippines have a long history of cooperation and shared many bonds and common values. These shared values are shown here today with our mutual commitment to improve security and safety in the maritime shipping industry,”

The so-called shared bonds and values are tainted with US deception. The US also has a long history of connivance with the puppet and dictator Marcos in concealing the presence of nuclear weapons in the Philippines.

Problems with VFA

Under the Visiting Forces Agreement, Philippine authorities have no way of determining if warships entering the country are carrying nuclear weapons. Philippine authorities are prohibited from inspecting US ships.

The US government’s hi-tech nuclear detection device, unfortunately, does not apply to US warships that freely enter the Philippines under the past and present administrations. We will never know if these ships are bringing in nuclear weapons, nuclear waste or other weapons of mass destruction. ###

There was also US intervention in the peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Philippine government as in those between the latter and the MILF.

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 would 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. He was soon after also included on the EU “terrorist list” of organizations and individuals 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 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.”

The same leveraging tactic was echoed by Presidential Peace Adviser Annabelle Abaya in a discussion with US Ambassador Kristie Kenney in November 2009. Abaya noted that Sison’s delisting by the EU “would eliminate some of the GRP’s leverage over him” and that “the GRP preferred Sison to remain designated as a terrorist” but admitted that “talks had not succeeded during his time in the EU list”.

US intervention, through the terrorist listing, had a very negative impact on the peace talks.  It was a move that was aimed at forcing the NDFP to surrender to the Philippine government, even without addressing the roots of the armed conflict. This negates the inherent character of the talks which were primarily aimed at finding solutions to the root causes of the armed struggle. Arroyo appeared more interested in getting the NDFP to surrender than in addressing the substantial issues in the peace negotiations. These issue include human rights, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and the disposition of forces.

After a long legal battle, Sison was eventually removed from the EU “terrorist list” in November 2009 based on a ruling by the European Court of First Instance. It appeared that the Dutch “terrorist listing” was done only in relation to asylum proceedings and was not based on actual crimes or terrorist activities.

Prior to the delisting, the US and Dutch governments did everything they could to keep Sison on the list, according to the secret cables.

Sison was arrested and detained by the Dutch government in 2007 on suspicion of ordering the killings of two people in the Philippines. Sison was eventually released and the charges were dismissed for lack of evidence. As revealed in previous news, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo told the US ambassador in Manila that Philippine and Dutch governments reportedly collaborated for years to build a case against Sison, but even this could not stand judicial scrutiny.

US opposed de-listing despite lack of evidence

In a confidential 2009 cable from the US embassy in Manila, US ambassador Kristie Kenney vehemently opposed the delisting of Sison by the EU, even if no new information or evidence was available to support his retention in the list.

“The absence of new information does not negate the very significant information we have had for some time regarding Sison.  If Sison and the NPA were to reject their past actions and pledge not to engage in such activity again, there might be some grounds for revisiting their designations, but on the contrary they refuse to agree to a ceasefire and continue to carry out kidnappings and killings.  Under the circumstances, removal of Sison’s terrorist designation is inadvisable,” Kenney said.

In a secret cable from the Netherlands in May 2009, the US embassy in The Hague sought advice from the US State Department on how keep Sison on the terror list amid the looming decision of the EU Court of First Instance nullifying his inclusion in the list. The cable said that the Dutch government was seeking US assistance because Sison was included in the terror list upon the request of the US government.

The US embassy in The Hague cited the inability of the Dutch police, intelligence services and the US embassy in Manila to provide any new information that would justify keeping Sison in the list.

The absence of new evidence or information came despite the massive seizure of NDF documents and equipment during the raids on the NDF office and houses of NDF personnel in the Netherlands by the Dutch authorities in August 2007. The Dutch police seized everything they could get their hands on–computers, disks, papers related to the peace process, personal belongings– and still they could not produce a shred of evidence to support the terrorist listing. Sison was also arrested and detained in this raid.

In another cable from The Hague dated October 2009, the US embassy again sought new information that could justify the retention of Sison in the terrorist list. The cable described a bilateral meeting between US and Dutch officials in Brussels where they discussed how to appeal an adverse EU ruling. The Dutch and US officials feared that the UK and German governments opposed the Dutch position and that majority of countries in the EU would not likely support a Dutch appeal.

The US embassy in The Hague also said that information provided by the Philippine government linking Sison to money-laundering activities was “insufficient to support prosecution in the Netherlands”.

In a separate cable issued from the US embassy in Manila, US authorities hinted at the possibility of rendition or deportation of Sison from the Netherlands to the Philippines, but cited as a stumbling block Sison’s status as a judicially recognized political refugee under the Refugee Convention and Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. ###

At least four US embassy cables from Manila dealt with the US response to the abduction of an American citizen and activist Melissa Roxas. All were marked confidential and were cleared by US ambassador Kristie Kenney.

Roxas, a member of Bayan-USA, reported that she was abducted by bonnet-clad armed men in La Paz town in Tarlac, Philippines on May 19, 2009 and held in what she believed to be a military camp. She was later surfaced in May 25. Throughout her captivity, Roxas was blindfolded, but could hear distinct sounds of what she believed to be an airstrip and a firing range. She testified before Philippine courts and human rights bodies that she was tortured into admitting she was a member of the New People’s Army.

Before leaving the Philippines, Roxas filed a petition for a writ of amparo before the Philippine Supreme Court to get protection against the state security forces of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The high court gave the petition due course and referred it to the Court of Appeals for hearing.

Roxas eventually returned to the Philippines that year to testify before the Court of the Appeals, the Commission on Human Rights, and the House Committee on Human Rights.

The abduction of an American activist was the first of its kind ever documented under the regime of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Her nine-year term was marked by hundreds of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances that gained much international attention.

The four embassy cables on Melissa Roxas dealt mainly with the US embassy’s actions on the incident and the Philippine government’s response. The US embassy pressed the Philippine government several times on the Roxas abduction, saying that the embassy gives importance to the safety and security of American citizens.

The embassy however was wary that groups like Bayan and its overseas chapter Bayan-US would use the abduction issue to highlight other human rights abuses in the country and to draw a link between these abuses and US military aid to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

This was articulated by US ambassador Kristie Kenney who wrote in the a confidential June 29, 2009  cable that Bayan was using the incident ”in an attempt to draw connections between U.S. military aid and human rights abuses by Philippine forces, with the apparent goal of ending U.S. financial support for the Philippine military altogether”.

The Philippines is the biggest recipient of US military aid in Southeast Asia. The amount significantly increased after the 9-11 attacks when the Philippines was designated as the “second front” in the “war on terror”.

The embassy noted the Philippine government’s initial response to the incident, which was to altogether deny any involvement in the abduction and torture. A lawyer from the Philippine Office of the Solicitor General even described the incident a “stage-managed event to achieve spectacular and theatrical results to damage the reputation of the Philippine government and earn political capital.”

In another confidential cable dated July 24, 2009, the US embassy expressed concern that “the highly publicized case has the potential to embarrass President Arroyo in advance of the July 27 State of the Nation Address — the last of her presidency — and her highly anticipated July 30 meeting with President Obama, which will be followed by a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder”.

The embassy also noted the seeming difficulties of US authorities in obtaining information from Roxas. The cable even insinuated inconsistency on the part of Roxas when she cited emotional distress as a reason for not dealing with the FBI, while showing “emotional fearlessness” in returning to the Philippines to face human rights investigations. This assessment of course is not accurate. Those who were in close contact with Roxas during her return are familiar with the emotional stress she experienced while recounting her ordeal in public hearings and in open court, all under close scrutiny by the media.

The last cable, dated August 2009, took note of the allegations made by then partylist representative Jovito Palparan who claimed that Roxas was a member of the New People’s Army who trained in the countryside.

“Whether or not Palparan’s allegations of Roxas’ NPA ties turn out to be true, the Mission has continued to echo CHR statements that Ms. Roxas’s political affiliations are irrelevant to a full investigation of her alleged kidnapping and torture. As the truth of Ms. Roxas’ experiences continues to unfold, the Mission will remain closely apprised of developments in the case and report significant developments to Washington”.

In various public hearings, Roxas vehemently denied Palparan’s allegations. It should be also noted that allegations by the likes of Palparan that Roxas is an NPA actually provides a clear motive for the AFP for abducting her. However, Palparan and his cohort in ANAD Jun Alcover insist that Roxas was abducted by the NPA and not by the AFP.  This assertion of Palparan is not supported by any evidence and runs counter to the credible testimony of Roxas that while she was in captivity, she was forced to confess to membership with the NPA and asked to return to the folds of the law. If she was indeed abducted by the NPA, why was she being tortured to admit membership and to return to the fold of the law?

To date, no one has been made accountable for the abduction of Roxas. The US embassy appeared to have gone through the motions of inquiring about the incident, monitoring the news, and expressing concern over the issue. Most of the embassy comments in the cables dealt with the possible negative media attention that the incident would generate.

The Supreme Court has tasked the Commission on Human Rights to undertake further investigation of the case. A recent CHR report practically cleared the AFP of involvement in the abduction and raised the possibility that Roxas was abducted by the NPA.

Roxas continues to fight for justice, this time in arenas outside the Philippines. ###