Mindanao nun tags US military use of drones ‘killer program’


A Predator B unmanned aircraft taxis at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas in this 2011 file photo. AP

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines—Washington’s drone program was branded “killer program” by a Mindanao-based nuns’ association as it called on the government to reject attempts by the Americans to put up a base in the country.

Sister Noemi Degala, executive secretary of the Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (Samin), said in a statement e-mailed to the Inquirer that in Pakistan alone, under the so-called global war on terror, US drone strikes have killed as many as 3,549 people, 197 of them children.

“This is the fundamental moral issue why the drone program of the United States must be rejected,” she said.

Degala said the program acts as “the prosecutor, judge and executor for and on behalf of a US president and military situated thousands of miles away from the targets.”

“It is also a mockery of international humanitarian laws because it does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in times of armed conflict. In fact, the US is the number one violator of human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL) agreements,” she said.

Degala said the US government was so drawn to its drone program that the use of unmanned aircraft has become “a new form of idolatry or the idol worship of instrument of death at the expense of people’s lives, lands and human rights.”

“It contradicts the words of Pope Francis opposing instruments of death in our times,” Degala said, adding that the US was now “the calf that demands the world’s absolute obedience.”

In Zamboanga City, Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar maintained her opposition to the prolonged stay of US forces in the city and decided to skip the ceremonial turnover of command for the US-led Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines as a manifestation of her protest.

US forces have been in the city since 2002 and are deployed there under the Balikatan defense training program.

Such a military rite was usually attended by local government officials in the past in honor of visiting diplomats and foreigners.

Philippine military officials were mum on Salazar’s absence but it did not deter them and US officials – led by Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas – to go on with the affair and witness the assumption of new JSOTFP commander Col. Robert McDowell.

McDowell replaced Col. Mark Miller, who was JSOTFP commander for over three years.

“I expounded to them (US and Filipino military officials) the issue of JSOTFP that has to be defined. Through the years of their presence in Zamboanga, they have not given us their long-term plan and the national government is up again in discussing this issue (of US bases),” Salazar said last Tuesday.

She said she even went as far as asking the US State Department about the presence of American soldiers in the city but she was instead told to “ask this question to the Philippine government.”

Thomas emphasized that there was an agreement between Manila and Washington on the presence of US forces in the country.

“As President Aquino has stated we are working on the Visiting Forces Agreement and the access agreement, we are working on everything with a duly-elected national government,” he said.

Thomas said the US government understood that any agreement has to be in accordance with the Philippine Constitution, that was why “we have people coming here to discuss that.”

He did not directly comment on  Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s and Salazar’s opposition to the use of the country’s airfields by US forces.

Instead, Thomas said, Washington could assure the public  that the stay of US forces here would not violate any law.

“I am not so sure what others may have talked about but I can assure you we would do nothing even not propose anything that would not be in accordance with the Philippine Constitution,” he said.

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  • Garo Ungaro

    Which killing is more validated the ground killings or the air surveillance and just a pinpoint strike. fewer casualties for the military and the civilians. ? More on enemy targets?

  • bugoy_bugoy

    What the hell are the nuns concern about the drones. are they making noise to make their names known. Much better this nun should question the the priests who accepted payoffs and luxury provided by napoles comfort from scammed wealth of philippines. ang layo naman ng concern nyo o wala na ba kayo maisip o dinadivert nyo lang ang issue. you should only be afraid of the drones if you have illegal activities because you have notions that the drones will bomb your arse. so napoles keep hiding otherwise the drone will bomb your arse. hahhaha

  • Simpleng_ofw

    You know what these priests and nuns are good at? They create an environment favorable to terrorists and criminals (even to poverty). When authorities come to do its job of protecting the innocent civilians, they let themselves be used to protect these perpetrators. That’s why no Catholic-influenced country in the world is really that peaceful and progressive.

    • Jose Robert Cunanan

      in reality the creator for an environment that’s favorable for insurgency are not the nuns and priests…but the like of Janet Lim Napoles and her minions in the senate and congress who are actually the real terrorist and criminals.

  • Alexalbert Mistisma

    Now, it is a breakthrough…

    US DRONES will start Killing FILIPINOS, Civilians or Terrorists..Because DRONES cant see or distinguish enemy combatants or military targets from the sky….

    So shameful for PHL …

    • Mamang Pulis

      …there are two kinds of UAV [drones]…and I believe the one with payload capability are reserved for the extreme

      and for your information—unarmed UAV’s has been extensively used in Sulu, Basilan…

      as for criminals-terrorist–filipinos or foreigners, do you bleed for these characters? That’s sick.

      • Alexalbert Mistisma

        U dont need to lecture us…

        We know what are drones…

      • Mamang Pulis

        oh yes you do need a lecture or two.

      • Alexalbert Mistisma

        No need mamang pulis…blueprints are abundant

      • Alexalbert Mistisma

        Drones will never succeed in mindanao affairs…

        There are many groups against it…

        We are fed up of mindanao for being a battleground…

      • Mamang Pulis

        with UAV’s flying or not, If it is ours or the americans….conflict will still arise in Mindanao….basta’t may lupa at ani na pag aagawan

      • Alexalbert Mistisma

        Learn the lessons of pakistan…

        You are entering another challenges…. foreign operated Military will be facing another era of confrontation…

        DRONES are obviously used for MILITARY MISSIONs

      • Mamang Pulis

        I find it lame that you have to post these replies…

  • go88

    How much $$$ is BS Aquino receiving from the americans for this?

    • crazy_horse_101010

      why dont you ask him and not us im sure they will tell you

    • Mamang Pulis

      …how much modernization & stop gap on our defense program are we going to receive from these?

      …how many jobs it will create if there will be more troops coming in? [please do not count in prostitution—with the american troops here or not—we have a bustling tourist activity–try makati cbd and manila red light district, the oldest profession has been around and will always be around]

  • m1600


    • Alexalbert Mistisma

      Come on i am not a pro GROUP individual…but obviously our ENEMY is in the CORRUPT GOVT …they are stealing our peoples’

  • generalproblem

    it either the nuns are pro npa o my boyfriend na abu sayaff. stop meddling in the war on terror sister.

  • 56u4puvv

    who the hell of this nun knows too much about drones and military affairs, is there someone do the research for her or somebody ask her to read the article in the media, like INQ.

  • PurpleDaisy13

    re: “in Pakistan alone, under the so-called global war on terror, US drone strikes have killed as many as 3,549 people, 197 of them children.”

    The nun seems to know her facts. But the Philippines have NO CHOICE but to satisfy our US demands if they want some level of comfort and protection from China.

    We’ll soon have the Phil’s administration by the balls just as the Malaysian King already has.

    Mabuhay USA!

  • gemini1971

    This is really funny people here were arguing about this program and they dont even know what’s the difference between a Predator drone and Reaper drone

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