“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press... (Sec. 4, 1987 Philippine Constitution)”
The US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTFP) has developed a blogsite in 2009, when the Public Affairs Officer was Maj. John Hutcheson. The blogsite does not indicate the mission of the Philippine command while in-country.
However, at the inauguration of the Birthing Home of the Zamboanga City Medical Center, the building of which was JSOTFP’s grant to the “women in children of southern Philippines”, the Public Affairs Office, then headed by Lt. Col. Joseph Allegretti, shared with the audience the Command’s mission in the Philippines.
“The mission of JSOTF-P is to support the comprehensive approach of the AFP in their fight against terrorism in the southern Philippines. At the request of the Government of the Philippines and the AFP, JSOTF-P helps the AFP bring humanitarian assistance to conflict-afflicted communities; shares information, and builds capacity through tactical training programs.”
Further, it was stated that, “ The JSOTF-P mission and activities are fully integrated into the overall U.S. government’s support to the Philippines. JSOTF-P leadership sits as a member of the U.S. embassy country team, led by the U.S. Ambassador. Close partnerships between JSOTF-P, USAID and other agencies results in integrated approach that greatly enhance U.S. support to the Philippines.”
Capping It All
The fight against terrorism is well-stated as the prime purpose why the US military are in the Philippines, hence, it is best to leave this at a later part. The most common activities under the “humanitarian assistance” program are the CAPs, and far from being cheap bottlecaps, these are cost-effective Civic Action Programs. Hence, the Medical CAPs (MedCAPs), Dental CAPs (DenCAPs), and the not-so-famous Veterinary CAPs (VetCAPs).
Do these CAPs serve their purpose? Have they been well-planned? Did they address local needs? How many have been served? And how confined were the CAPs were?
In all the media releases, JSOTFP Public Affairs Office always said the locations for the CAPs were identified by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). This is also the case for the sites were the CAPs were done during the annual Balikatan exercises held every first quarter of the year with short-term visiting US forces.
The MedCAPs did not just bring together the medical teams of both US JSOTFP and AFP, but also brought in doctors, nurses, midwives, and other health practitioners of the allied sciences to work together in the identified communities.
In an interview at the Western Mindanao Command, its spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang admitted that most significant if not valuable of the contributions of the US military were the socio-civic programs that they did in partnership with the AFP in conflict-affected areas such as Sulu and Basilan, Lanao, and some parts of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and which extended to neighboring areas like Tawi-Tawi, Isabela City, and Zamboanga City. These he said are all part of its main thrust of winning hearts and minds here in the Philippines.
This humanitarian program however did not start here in the Philippines; rather, it is an offshoot of what the US military did in Iraq and Afghanistan. The striking difference is, in the Philippines, the conflict is not as imminent, and the atrocities as a result of the conflict are not as heavy as those in the Middle East.
With the recent pronouncements by the Defense Department, and the Foreign Affairs Department, it would seem that the winning of hearts and minds, and the capping activities have just had its first years of samplers. (Frencie Carreon, The PhilSouth Angle)
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