MANILA, Philippines - Long before the bases lease agreement with the US expired during the term of President Cory, the more aggressive of our militants shouted the familiar "Yankees go home" in front of the US Embassy. The embassy staff was not on their mind but the Marines and battleships docked at Subic before the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.
Marine charged with rape
Then a good-looking Marine corporal was charged with rape. He was detained for trial at the US Embassy compound. Then the complainant signed an affidavit that she was not raped, but the Court of Appeals acquitted the corporal on another ground: The complainant was visibly drunk and she really liked the company of a young Marine. The smart girl was given a US visa, a permanent one, and she's still in America having a good time.
No more 'Yankees go home'
In the last four years, a good number of American soldiers have participated in military exercises with our troops in Mindanao, Visayas, and Luzon. The banners of "Yankees go home" ceased to be seen in places where the military exercises took place.
And our more prominent politicians were more tolerant of military exercises which they condemned in the 1990s as "clear and present danger" to our sovereignty. They probably realized that we badly need more modern weaponry for the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
An archipelago of 7,100 islands must be defended by faster patrol boats, helicopters, and troop carriers. In the ASEAN defense structure, we have about the less convincing defense or offense posture. One Air Force general even said, "We're all air but no force."
This week President Noynoy said, "Yes to more US troops" to hold military training exercises anywhere in the country. Yesterday, the USS Blue Ridge, the flagship of the US Seventh Fleet, dropped anchor at the South Harbor for a four-day goodwill visit. The Blue Ridge, according to a US Navy website, has the most sophisticated command and control system.
The US presence in Southeast Asia can give the much-needed stability to the region. Singapore will provide stations for US combat ships and the US will step up deployments in Thailand, according to Admiral Jonathan Greenert, chief of the US naval operations.
President Noynoy cited the need for fighter jets. He said, "From nothing to one is a significant leap. I am told we can sustain two squadrons (24 fighter planes)." He emphasized the need to protect our rights to parts of the West Philippine Sea that are within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone. It is believed that vast oil and gas deposits may be found in this zone.
Our progressive neighbors
Our neighbors Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore have all the sophisticated arms for air, land, and naval operations. The three have no anti-US slogans in the interest of sovereignty - one word symbolizing national pride.
But the unseen notion of sovereignty alone cannot be translated into actual needs for hardware - new weapons for defense. We need alliance with our stronger and more progressive neighbors.
Insurgency in Mindanao in the early 1950s was quickly routed by President Magsaysay, and was not to assert itself again until the mid-1960s. There were no roving bands then waiting for the opportunity to abduct innocent civilians for ransom. The Army, Air Force, and Navy were properly supplied with shiny arms to give the enemy a proper drubbing.
How to stop rebellion
The Manila government under Magsaysay had a convincing argument to stop any form of rebellion. Remember the Muslim bandit named Kamlon? He commanded a few platoons of fully armed followers and installed a government of their own in Sulu. Magsaysay asked Kamlon to "drop their weapons" before bargaining for peace. Kamlon and his followers showed clear defiance instead.
Invisible government abolished
Magsaysay ordered the Air Force to bomb all suspected cota (stronghold) of the old bandit. The Army executed a fast pincer and trapped Kamlon. He was convicted of murder and was committed to the national penitentiary. He was granted a full pardon when his invisible government in Sulu was thoroughly demolished as promised.
When a government bargains from a position of visible strength, the outcome could be plain as daylight. (Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org).