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Bahaghari condemns Balikatan exercise as threat to LGBTQ+ lives, livelihoods

LGBTQ+ group Bahaghari has criticized the continued Balikatan exercise as the perpetuation of the “violation of national sovereignty” and “a threat to LGBTQ+ Filipinos’ rights and welfare”.

LGBTQ+ group Bahaghari has criticized the continued Balikatan exercise as the perpetuation of the “violation of national sovereignty” and “a threat to LGBTQ+ Filipinos’ rights and welfare”.

In a gist, Balikatan is a military drill involving the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the US military, part of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) treaties. Known for advancing American supremacy, including foregoing the accountability of those involved in it while on foreign soil, it is – nonetheless – being sold as an exercise “designed to strengthen bilateral interoperability, capabilities, trust, and cooperation.”

According to Arri Samsico, secretary-general of Bahaghari, with the continued deployment and arrival of foreign military forces in the country, abuse and violence against the LGBTQ+ is imminent, especially in communities neighboring the US EDCA sites.

“Part of the US troops’ program here is what they term ‘rest and recreation’ — a euphemism for abuse and prostitution, where US soldiers exploit and endanger thousands of women, children, and LGBTQ+ persons who are left without many alternatives at the height of the Philippines’ economic crisis and rampant poverty,” Samsico said.

It can be recalled that on October 11, 2014, transgender woman Jennifer Laude was drowned to death by Joseph Scott Pemberton, a Lance Corporal in the US Marine Corps in Olongapo. Although he was convicted on December 1, 2015, former Pres. Rodrigo Duterte granted him an absolute pardon.

“The VFA and EDCA are treaties that violate our national sovereignty and despite claims of benevolence, benefit only the US. Under these treaties, the Philippines funds the stay of US military troops while we are mired in a chronic crisis marked with low wages, high prices of basic goods, and an increase in tuition fees, which time and again has only pushed LGBTQ+ youth into prostitution as their means of survival,”  Samsico said.

According to Bahaghari, the US-Marcos regime prioritizes provoking conflict between the US and China to maintain its influence and profit from defense and arms industries. With 11,000 US forces stationed in the Philippines, potential war between the two imperialist powers could negatively impact Filipinos.

With the impending war with the two imperialist countries, the US and China, “Bahaghari calls on all LGBTQ+ Filipinos and allies to unite against the US military presence in the country and oppose the anti-people foreign policy of the US-Marcos regime. We must stand up and defend the national sovereignty and rights of the Filipino people against imperialist wars,”  Samsico ended.

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