Is the Philippine Military Supporting Terrorism?

| August 27, 2003

In 2001 U.S. military aid to the Philippines increased from $2 million to $80 million. The war on terrorism was going splendidly. Then a Pentagon spokesperson said U.S. troops would 'actively participate' in combat operations. The public outcry was massive -- a clause in the Philippine constitution does not allow for combat by foreign soldiers -- and the joint military operation involving more than 3,000 U.S. troops was called off. In the six months since the Pentagon foot-in-mouth there has been a significant increase in terrorist attacks. The question is, writes Naomi Klein in The Nation, who is really behind these attacks?

On July 27 a group of 300 mutinous soldiers rigged a Manila shopping mall with C-4 as a soapbox for accusing the Philippine government of supporting terrorism so as to justify increasing U.S. military aid and intervention. Klein writes that the soldiers claims include:

  • that senior military officials, in collusion with the Arroyo regime, carried out last March's bombing of the airport of the southern city of Davao, as well as several other attacks. Thirty-eight people were killed in the bombings. The leader of the mutiny, Lieutenant Antonio Trillanes, claims to have 'hundreds' of witnesses who can testify to the plot;
  • that the army has fueled terrorism in Mindanao by selling weapons and ammunition to the very rebel forces the young soldiers were sent to fight;
  • that members of the military and police helped prisoners convicted of terrorist crimes escape from jail. The 'final validation,' according to Trillanes, was Father Rohman al-Ghozi's July 14 escape from a heavily guarded Manila prison. Al-Ghozi is a notorious bomb-maker with the group Jemaah Islamiyah, which has been linked to both the Bali and Marriott attacks;
  • that the government was on the verge of staging a new string of bombings to justify declaring martial law.

While the soldiers' tactics were widely condemned, their claims were widely seen as legitimate. Klein writes that 'Local newspaper reports described the army's selling of weapons to rebels as 'an open secret' and 'common knowledge.''

What is more disgusting than the possibility that a government would kill its own citizens to boost U.S. support? The possibility that the U.S. government is helping in the plot. In an incident that has not been reported in the U.S. press, an American citizen, Michael Meiring, injured himself after blowing up a bomb in his hotel room. Two men who identified themselves as FBI agents plucked Meiring out of the hospital and flew him back to America. Klein writes, 'BusinessWorld, a leading Philippine newspaper, has published articles openly accusing Meiring of being a CIA agent involved in covert operations 'to justify the stationing of American troops and bases in Mindanao.'

Why hasn't any of this seen more media exposure? As Klein concludes, 'Maybe it just seemed too outlandish: an out-of-control government fanning the flames of terrorism to pump up its military budget, hold on to power and violate civil liberties. Why would Americans be interested in something like that?'
-- Joel Stonington

Go there>> Mutiny in Manila

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