So I read a headline from the Philippine Daily Inquirer (my #1 newspaper here in the Philippines) on that tidbit:
THE chief of the US Pacific Command canceled on Thursday the annual RP-US war games as a result of the refusal of the Makati Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals to return to US custody an American soldier convicted of raping a Filipino woman.
The US Embassy in Manila yesterday confirmed the announcement of Adm. William Fallon who, according to a New York Times report, canceled next year’s joint Balikatan exercises over the custody of Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith.
“It is true we are going to cancel the Balikatan 2007 as the issue of protection for US servicemen remains in doubt,” embassy spokesperson Matthew Lussenhop said when reached by the Inquirer.
“It would not be prudent to bring additional US troops for that exercise,” Lussenhop said.
Can’t really blame the US. They’ve got their interests to protect, just as our country does.
But this part got me frowning:
But the New York Times quoted Fallon as saying that he would also stop the aid and reconstruction programs carried out by the American military in the Philippines until he was confident that the troops’ legal rights would be protected under the VFA.
Fallon also ordered the withdrawal of an aid team in the Philippines that was assessing the needs of typhoon-ravaged areas, and canceled a number of visits by American ships, the New York Times reported.
It quoted Fallon as saying that he had likewise canceled the field exercise portions of the Balikatan, which was to open in the coming weeks and involve 4,700 American and 3,000 Philippine military personnel.
(Lussenhop said the Balikatan traditionally opened in February.)
Fallon also said smaller segments of the exercise involving computer simulations and classroom work might be allowed to proceed if the custody dispute would be resolved.
“The last thing we want is to undo all the good work that has been done between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and ourselves, but this puts me in a real dilemma because I need to guarantee the safety of our forces,” the admiral was quoted as saying.
Although the 2 paragraphs before that reported some US servicemen are involved in community relations projects (like playing Santa Claus to kids in Zamboanga), I won’t be surprised if they’re “forced” to pull out because of this. I hope that won’t happen, though.
Real shame the subsequent consequences occurring after the rape case was recently concluded, although appears are underway. An even bigger shame (?) is our very own government siding with the US on the issue where Smith (the lone serviceman who got convicted in the rape trial) should be held pending appeals on his case.
But then, what shameful things our stupid excuse for a government does shouldn’t be surprising anymore.