Filipino Solon Warns U.S. On Jolo Island Combat

August 15, 2007 at 6:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

U.S. troops in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 15 Aug) – A Filipino lawmaker on Wednesday warned the United States against participating in combat in the southern island of Jolo, where local troops are battling members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.

Rep. Satur Ocampo said any U.S. participation in the conflict would violate the Philippines Constitution and further inflame the Abu Sayyaf group, blamed for the spate of bombings and kidnappings of foreigners and other rebel groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the communist New People’s Army.

“While the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement insofar as joint military exercises are concerned, it explicitly prohibits U.S. military forces from joining the Armed Forces of the Philippines in combat operations,” Ocampo said.

U.S. troops were frequently seen in the company of Filipino forces hunting down the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo island, about 950 kilometers south of Manila.

Hundreds of U.S. soldiers are stationed in Jolo island and Zamboanga City and other areas in Mindanao and helping Philippine military defeat terrorism.

Major Eugene Batara, a regional Philippine Army spokesman, denied that U.S. troops were involved in combat operation in Jolo island.

“They are prohibited from participating in direct combat operation. Filipino troops are fighting the terrorists,” he said in Zamboanga City.

Nathaniel Santiago, leader of the militant Bayan Muna group, said Manila should take a very critical posture on U.S. meddling in Jolo, especially in view of efforts of the U.S. Congress to compel the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

“The U.S. is caught in a quagmire it created in Iraq and we should not allow the Americans to make a repeat of such a disaster in Mindanao,” he said, citing U.S. media reports that the opposition-controlled House and Senate are pressing the Bush government to bare Iraq withdrawal plans due to continued military casualties and the questions on the alleged reasons for waging war.

More than 5,000 Filipino soldiers are in Jolo and pursuing Abu Sayyaf militants and insurgents from the Moro National Liberation protecting two Jemaah Islamiya bombers Dulmatin and Umar Patek, tagged as behind two deadly blasts in the resort island of Bali in Indonesia in 2002.

Officials as many as 40 militants were killed, including a senior MNLF leader, in fierce clashes last week on the island last, but 26 soldiers also died from that fighting. (Mindanao Examiner)

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