Filipino socialists: Australian forces should get out

Australian Secret Intelligence Service chief Nick Warner with Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte.

Filipino socialist group, the Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), released the statement slightly abridged below on September 3 after the Australian government announced to it would send special forces to work with the murderous Rodrigo Duterte regime in Mindanao in the name of the “war on terror”.

The PLM demands that the Australian government withdraw the two Australian air force Orion spy planes participating in combat since June in Marawi, Mindanao, and abandon plans announced by Australian government ministers to send special forces.

Australian military forces have no legitimate reason to be in the Philippines.

The PLM condemns the Duterte administration for welcoming Australian military intervention, as it has welcomed US special forces. The war raging in Marawi is the result of Duterte deliberately escalating the situation as a pretext for declaring martial law and further militarising Mindanao.

Coming in the context of Duterte’s extrajudicial killings and his rehabilitation of Marcos, we can only see his actions in Mindanao as part of a move towards nationwide martial law.

A quarter of a million people have been displaced by the fighting in Marawi, mainly by air strikes. Almost 1000 people have been killed. But Duterte’s increasing reliance on US and Australian military support means it also threatens the Philippines’ sovereignty.

Australia portrays itself as a democracy that respects international law. However, leaks by whistleblowers have led to a judicial inquiry currently happening in Australia that has found that Australian special forces in Afghanistan have been responsible for human rights abuses. These include the murder of non-combatant civilians, torture and the extrajudicial execution of prisoners and mutilation of corpses. The inquiry has found a “culture of abuse and cover-ups”. 

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop spoke of giving the Philippines “Iraq- level assistance”. Australia has taken part in repeated US-led imperialist aggressions against Iraq that have left more than a million Iraqis dead and their country in ruins and wracked by conflict.

Duterte promised before he was elected that he would seek negotiated solutions to Mindanao’s multiple insurgencies and have a tough, independent foreign policy stance towards the US and the West. He has done the opposite.

The history of conflict in Mindanao is related to the just struggle of the Bangsamoro people for self-determination. Genuine self-determination is the only solution to the exploitation and oppression of the Bangsamoro people at the hands of “imperial Manila” or the traditional Philippine oligarchy.

Duterte’s war in Marawi is just the latest example of Filipino state aggression against the Bangsamoro people. The PLM calls for the immediate passage and implementation of the latest Bangsamoro Basic Law agreed upon by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other Bangsamoro groups. 

A negotiated solution to the conflicts in Mindanao should be based on equality, mutual respect and solidarity between the Filipino, Moro and Lumad people. This solidarity includes standing together against foreign exploitation. 

We note that the destruction of nature and communities by Australian mining companies has been a contributor to conflict in Mindanao. Protecting these mining interests will be a task of Australian forces.

Australian politicians justify sending forces by saying that instability in the Philippines poses a threat to Australia. We say to the Australian people: your government is lying. The Philippines poses no threat to Australia, but Australia is fuelling violence in our country.

We note Australia’s long history of waging imperialist wars, often under US leadership, in our region, in Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos among others. But we are also aware of a history of anti-imperialist solidarity from Australian trade unions, such as with Indonesia in the 1940s and East Timor in the 1990s and opposition to the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. We call for such solidarity now.