MANILA, Philippines – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) 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.
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 task force 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.”
Sought for clarification, Westmincom spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang clarified the Americans’ actions by explaining that the journalists were in a secure facility “and persons going there need clearance” to shoot video and other images, Director Alipala said.
But as reported by Director Alipala, the news crew was taking footage outside the task force headquarters.
Even granting Cabangbang’s explanation, 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.
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.