By Joey Natividad
CITY OF NAGA. Bicol Region – “Wait a minute” says solon to soon-to-depart US troops in Mindanao after smelling a trail of Filipino blood left by these “dogs of war”.
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon wants to know what these “gun-packing American guys” have been doing in the South after hearing reports about them “picking up a fight with some Muslim ‘terrorists’” and some of them “dropping dead.” And, now they are leaving.
Ridon said Friday that he will file a resolution on Monday to call for a congressional review on the performance and activities of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), following its deactivation early this week and the special troop’s departure from the country.
The JSOTF-P is a special US troop deployed in the Philippines starting 2001 to “to advise and assist Philippine security forces at the tactical, operational and strategic levels against violent extremist organizations throughout the southern Philippines” at the request of the Philippine government.
The JSOTF-P has about 600 servicemen with its headquarters in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City.
On Tuesday, February 24, the JSOTF-P held a closing program together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to mark the end of their 13-year stay in Mindanao.
“The JSOTF-P is one of the most controversial US military programs in the Philippines. Several whistleblowers, including former Navy officer Lt. Senior Grade Nancy Gadian, have revealed that this special US force engage in direct combat in Mindanao. As such, we cannot just let them depart without conducting a review of the program’s performance, undertakings, and their past activities with Philippine forces,” Ridon said.
The party-list legislator said that he will file a resolution on Monday to call on the House Committee on National Defense and Security to conduct a review of the JSOTF-P.
“We plan to invite the commander of the JSOTF-P and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg to testify before Congress, for we believe that it is in the interest of the Filipino people to know what exactly these special troops were doing in Mindanao during their 13-year stint there,” Ridon said.
17 American casualties since 2001
Ridon expressed particular concern over the revelation that in a span of 13 years, a total of 17 JSOTF-P officers died during their tour of duty. This was revealed during the JSOTF-P’s closing ceremony last Tuesday.
“Of the 17, ten died in the helicopter crash in Bohol in 2002. But what of the seven others? What were the cause of their deaths?” Ridon asked, explaining that it is possible that some of these US servicemen died during combat operations.
“We have to emphasize that our Constitution bans direct combat involvement of US troops. If these US servicemen died in combat in Mindanao, then we are looking at cases of serious infringement of our sovereignty,” Ridon said.
US Troops in Mamasapano
The legislator added that the alleged involvement of the JSOTF-P in the Mamasapano operation needs to be cleared out before they depart from the Philippines.
“There are serious allegations of US military intervention – through the JSOTF-P – in the botched Mamasapano operation. The JSOTF-P’s involvement in intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance have been widely reported, yet the US Embassy remained mum. There are even reports of casualties on their side. All of these issues remain unresolved, leaving the Filipino public groping in the dark. This is why we cannot just let them pack their bags and go without further questioning,” Ridon said.
“A review of the JSOTF-P operations in the Philippines will reveal the extent of US military intervention in the Philippines. We cannot let an affront to our national sovereignty slip out of our islands quietly,” Ridon said. [BicolToday.com]