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PRIVILEGE SPEECH: On the Filipino-American War and US Aggression and Intervention (4 February 2015)

4 February 2015 No Comment






One hundred and sixteen years ago today, the Filipino people began their revolutionary struggle against US imperialism with the outbreak of the Filipino-American War.  On February 4, 1899, patrolling American troops in Sociego Street, Sta. Mesa, Manila provoked the formal start of hostilities by firing at Filipino soldiers, thus stealing the independence hard-won, after three centuries under Spanish colonial rule, by Filipinos led by the revolutionary Katipunan.

The years spanning the Filipino-American War are one of the most terrible stretches of time in our history, but also one that bore witness to the burning and defiant patriotism that drove the masses to continue fighting for their independence despite overwhelming odds—a patriotism still burning to this day.

Some historical treatises estimate that over 5,000 battles raged across the country in the duration of the Filipino-American War.  American official estimates after only two years of fighting stood at 600,000 Filipino casualties in Luzon alone.  Two years later, this count reached nearly a million Filipinos dead due to combat and the after-effects of the Americans’ deliberate strategy of dislocation and destruction.  Only 15,000 to 20,000 of these casualties were combatants.

In other words, American aggression over a century ago killed more Filipinos in just the first three years of their war of conquest and occupation than in the preceding three centuries of Spanish colonial rule.  It murdered over 15% of the population of eight million in just the first five years.

Hundreds of thousands more would be killed in subsequent battles and as a result of the waves of “pacification campaigns” in Luzon and the Visayas from 1904 onwards.  A further 100,000 of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Mindanao would be killed in their resistance from 1903 to 1913.

I could go on and list the atrocities committed against the Filipino people during the 17 years of the Filipino-American War just to elaborate the depth of the barbarity of American occupation and to illustrate how far US imperialism went to crush the nationalist resolve of Filipinos.  But the massacres ordered by military and civilian officials on Filipino guerillas and non-combatants alike, the water cure, reconcentration, and scorched earth tactics, and such other war crimes are all well-documented, even by US congressional records.

Consequently, its accountability for reparation to the Filipino people, which covers apology, acknowledgment of the facts, and acceptance of responsibility, is well-grounded under international law.

I have filed House Resolution 130 in this Congress demanding from the US government an apology for the atrocities committed by its military forces against the Filipino people during the Filipino-American War and the imposition of US colonial rule.  It cites the urgency and necessity for such acknowledgment in light of the Aquino administration’s initiatives to expand the presence of US military forces and facilities on Philippine soil.

I also filed House Bill 448 which seeks to declare today, February 4, as a special working holiday commemorating the “Philippine-American War Day” or “Araw ng Digmaang Pilipino-Amerikano.”  I noted there that “remembrance of the patriotism and self-sacrifice of our heroes and martyrs will reconcile us with our past, clarify our present, and point our way to the future.”

We honor today the Filipino patriotism, struggle, and resilience against American aggression, not just during the long years of the Filipino-American War but also thereafter.  Our history teaches us that American imperialism, which was bent during the 19th century on expanding its economic and military might by dominating the territorial spoils of Spain, has never left our land even after it “ended” its occupation.  It has persisted until now, and even seeks to further entrench itself in the name of political, military, and economic positioning and domination.  We see this in the Aquino administration’s agreement known as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.  We see this even now in the hand of the US military in the Mamasapano operation.

But history also teaches us—as in any war, those who deem themselves oppressed and dominated, especially a people with a revolutionary legacy such as ours, will not lay idly down, but will definitely fight back.

I give this speech to commemorate our ancestors who fought gallantly, heroically over a century ago for Philippine independence, for a truly independent Filipino nation against US imperialism.  We owe to their memory to keep the struggle for genuine independence alive.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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