GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- A coalition urging the pull-out of United States troops in Mindanao lambasted Wednesday the Supreme Court for affirming the legality of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
In a statement, the US Troops Out Now!-Mindanao, said the Supreme Court resolution will only bolster the 600 US troops stationed in Mindanao to "commit human rights violations and get away with it."
"The resolution will send a wrong signal to victims of US troops’ atrocities and discourage them from pursuing cases against the perpetrators," said Bishop Rudy N. Juliada, spokesperson for US Troops Out Now!-Mindanao.
Juliada cited the case of 33-year old Gregan Cardeno, a civilian who served as interpreter for American soldiers, who died on February 2, 2010 on mysterious circumstances inside the Philippine Army's 103rd Brigade Headquarters in Marawi City.
The case has prompted human rights groups, led by the Kawagib Alliance for the Advancement of Moro Human Rights, to hold a fact-finding mission to look into the family's complaint that US troops might be involved in Cardeno's death.
Juliada also reiterated that there are still several unresolved cases where US soldiers have been involved in combat and espionage operations, including the 2009 ambush in Sulu which killed US soldiers in an operation.
On February 2008, several families in Maimbung, Sulu were massacred allegedly by Philippine soldiers accompanied by US troops, the group claimed.
The group said soldiers involved in these incidents cannot be charged for these crimes and violations against the Constitution because of the VFA's legality.
The US has also increased efforts to spruce up the image of American troops by distributing coloring books to children in Lanao del Norte, which contained messages of counter-terrorism, according to the group.
US Troops Out Now!-Mindanao, a coalition of sectors from the religious, local officials, academe, lawyers and people’s organizations, said that the VFA is unconstitutional and that the "Filipino people judge this as a lopsided agreement between the subservient Arroyo government and the US as the sole world's superpower."
The coalition also reiterate its call to pull out some 600 embedded American soldiers in Mindanao, and the demolition of US military structures in the island.