Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Philippines - What’s happening to us, Mr. President?First, the spy plane. And now the drone. Both from the US.

No, the sequence is not right.  The spy plane, if there was one, would have entered Philippine airspace after the standoff with China in Scarborough Shoal threatened to become open-ended. On the other hand the drone strike against a foreign terrorist target in southern Philippines occurred much earlier in 2006.
So the drone attack came first, except that  the Sunday magazine of The New York Times reported it only last week.  The target was an Indonesian terrorist named Umar Patek, a key figure in the 2002 bombing in Bali, Indonesia, which left 202 people dead.
The drone missed Patek and killed some unnamed civilians instead.  But the Bali bomber was eventually arrested and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment by an Indonesian court.
That story has not been denied.  By contrast, President Aquino has disowned the spy plane yarn only that not all Filipinos believe what their President says. And the US government has said nothing about it.
The spy plane story is now on Mr.  Aquino’s plate, while the drone strike happened during the watch of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, now detained.  One, however, seems to be a part of the other, there is no constitutional excuse for both.  Together they create a situation which thoughtful Filipinos will not find easy to comprehend or accept.
What is happening to our country, Mr. President?  Do we still have a sovereign and independent republic?  Or have we reverted to our previous colonial status?
Where are the thundering nationalist voices that once gave glory and grandeur to the press, the academe, the Foreign Service, the Senate?  Were the writers Jose Lansang, Salvador P. Lopez, Leon Ma. Guerrero, Nick Joaquin, Teodoro M. Locsin, I. P. Soliongco, Ernesto Granada, Emilio Aguilar Cruz,  J.V. Cruz,  Renato Constantino, Adrian Cristobal, Petronilo Daroy,  Carmen Guerrero Nakpil, and Senators  Claro M. Recto, Cipriano Primicias, Lorenzo Tañada, Jose Wright Diokno, Arturo Tolentino, Jovito Salonga, Blas F. Ople and a few more like them, the last of their breed?
Why is there such a deafening silence in our usually inquisitorial Senate?
The Senate is, by definition, the country’s highest deliberative assembly whose duty it is to speak on paramount issues of national security and foreign affairs.  Have our distinguished senators been  utterly paralyzed by their recent political success  in convicting and removing an illegally impeached chief justice?
What happened to those who long to teach the nation what it does not know about patriotism and “principled politics?”
Since we have not heard a peep from the incumbents who are  preparing to run again next year for another six years of pork and perks in office,  shouldn’t we be hearing from the newcomers  who, if we are to believe their uninhibited press buildups, would be the nation’s gift to the Senate?
The Philippines is not a war zone. At least, to the best of our knowledge, not yet. The use of drones by a foreign power to target its enemies and, in the process create so much collateral damage, in a non-combatant third country is no trifling offense.  It should at least elicit a grunt of concern from our political leaders.
They need not bristle with antagonism, for we remain a strong US partner for peace. But they could show some courage in telling our American friends that the Philippines is not Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia or Yemen,  where over 4,000 people have been killed in drone strikes since 2002, according to estimates by the American Civil Liberties Union.
We need not the drones to add to our miseries.  We have had our share of  martyrs to imperial overreach.  At large portion of our small population perished during America’s  war of conquest of the Philippines.  And between 1947 and 1991, so many dark-skinned natives were killed near  the gunnery range inside the US bases,  mistaken (so the nation was told) for wild boars.
We must now demand the honor and respect befitting an independent and sovereign republic.
Even in recognized war zones, the use of drones has provoked serious questions—questions of international law.  In a conference in Geneva, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings expressed fear that the US drone attacks could encourage other states to flout long-established human rights standards.
There are three US drones programs, according to the NY Times report. One is run by the Pentagon in Iraq and Afghanistan. The other two are run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and  the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command elsewhere. They maintain separate lists of people targeted for killing, the Times said.
Some of these attacks could constitute  “war crimes,”  said the UN special rapporteur. The US, however, is not a signatory to the treaty creating the International Criminal Court, where appropriate legal action may be initiated. And some countries have signed an undertaking never to initiate any ICC action against the US.
Should we concede the US use of  drones to be beyond reproach, what would happen if and when  terrorist organization is able to hijack a drone, or if and when a country  like Iran, North Korea, China or Russia embarks on the same program and starts targeting its enemies anywhere in Europe, Britain or the US? The Manila Standard.

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