US-supplied air assets, used more on brutal war of terror than on “border security”

On Wednesday, the United States military delivered five Black Hawk helicopters and four ScanEagle drone systems to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Purportedly, these weapons will increase the AFP’s “domain awareness and border security capabilities.” To justify these donations and acquisitions, military officials draw the false picture that these equipment and weapons are primarily geared towards defense against threats of Chinese military incursions in the South China Sea, which have heightened over the past several years under the policy of subservience of the Duterte regime.

The truth, however, is that these drones and helicopters, alongside jet fighters and their rockets and 500-lb bombs, are primarily being used in the countryside, rather than along the country’s borders or for national defense. These weapons are being employed in the increasingly brutal war of terror in the Philippine countryside marked by heightening aerial bombardment, shelling and strafing. By supplying these weapons and military equipment, the US government is satisfying the blood-lust of the tyrant Duterte while unloading itself of surplus weaponry to keep up the demand for arms supplied by the US military industrial complex.

We estimate that the AFP has spent more hours flying their drones for counterguerrilla reconnaissance than for detecting foreign incursions. The US-supported AFP has dropped more bombs, fired more rockets and artillery shells in a brutal tactic to make the people and their revolutionary forces bow to their military superiority, than to defend the country’s territory.

It is our observation that drones and reconnaissance aircraft are flown almost daily in the rural areas, burning hundreds of millions of pesos worth of fuel to scour fields and mountains in an effort to detect the presence of units of the New People’s Army (NPA). In the countryside, there are increasing complaints among the peasant masses of the stressful noise generated constantly by prolonged overhead flights of these drones and reconnaissance aircraft.

A large majority of the AFP’s rockets and bombs have been deployed without clear targets, hitting mountains, farms or pastureland, endangering people’s lives and damaging crops and forest resources. Over the past few years, tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate while the AFP conducted their aerial bombardment campaign and artillery shelling in the proximity of their communities.

In instances that aerial strikes hit NPA camps, the deaths and injury caused by the AFP’s bombs and rockets are superfluous. These powerful weapons are deployed without making distinction between combatants and non-combatants, including medics and civilians, and with complete disregard of their adversaries’ complete lack of ability to defend themselves. All these are violative of the principles of international humanitarian law and conventions governing the conduct of war.

US-supplied air assets, used more on brutal war of terror than on “border security”