Misconduct maybe, but don’t send the Marines home just yet

Filipino army officers demonstrate hand-to-hand combat during Balikatan exercises. Photo: Army.mil

By Philip Dominguez Mercurio

An article in the “Marine Corps Times” described the Philippines as a country with a “raunchy party atmosphere… where alcohol and scantily clad women have attracted Marines and sailors over the years.” In light of the Secret Service scandal in Colombia and Pres. Obama’s reference to a “couple of knuckleheads,” I read on.

The article reports on how hundreds of Marines will soon deploy to the Philippines as part of Balikatan exercises, and how Manila’s officialdom welcomes them with open arms. Toward the end, it called attention to the Philippines being a great R&R where alcohol flowed freely and “scantily clad women” are everywhere.

“Whatever you heard was probably true,” the article quotes a retired sergeant who had spent time in the country.

The piece infuriated some, prompting calls for the U.S. to leave the Philippines. While, I have my beef about the article, I think it would be a mistake for the U.S. to completely leave the country. China is now the emerging superpower, an economic and political juggernaut that is building enormous ports in Brazil and stadiums in the Bahamas and flexing its muscles all around. It is trying to claim sovereignty over the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea which is clearly and geopolitically a Philippine territory.

I wonder why this article was even published in the first place. It is wrong – at the very least, done in bad taste. But I think I know why it had to be written. The Marines, who are probably new brats in their early 20s, generally have no recollection of the country. It’s been more than 20 years since U.S. military bases were stationed there, and this piece served to remind them of what the Philippines is all about.

But to enshrine in official military literature that the Philippines has a “raunchy party atmosphere” and can be “a lot of fun?” It puts in serious doubt Obama’s so-called “zero-tolerance policy” toward such “misconduct.” He said he would be angry if such allegations were true about his agents in Colombia, perhaps he should be angrier still if he saw statements encouraging such “misconduct” as part of policy for men in uniform.

But let me make clear: As much as I abhor this stupidity, the Marines and the rest of the U.S. forces should not be prevented from performing their duty in protecting Philippine sovereignty. Don’t get me wrong. I would love for the Philippines to be truly independent, influenced by no other force than itself.

But unfortunately, some countries that are much more influential than others don’t always play nice. Even Okinawans – whose island hosts U.S. bases and had to deal with cases of rapes committed by some Marines – are debating the repercussions of a pullout, although their Seventh Fleet is fully capable of being a deterrent against China.

The Philippines, unlike Japan, has no Seventh Fleet parked outside its door. Its largest, newest warship tried to arrest 10 Chinese fishing boats recently and had to back off after a showdown with two Chinese surveillance ships. What would the Philippines do in the face of a Chinese frigate or destroyer? And who would come to our aid? Russia? Britain? Our Asean neighbors?

Only America.

Though weary from its last two wars, the U.S. military could prove a force for good in the country, and many Filipino Americans now fill their ranks — from the Army to West Point. Many of them love the Philippines just as much as any Filipino back home. I’m sure, they would proudly defend Philippine sovereignty.

Philip Dominguez Mercurio, 29, is a free-lance columnist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is currently working on a textbook about Kulintang Music and has just completed MCU med-school in Caloocan City. He can be reached at PhilipDominguezMercurio@hotmail.com.



3 Comments

  1. M. Matthews wrote:

    The Philippines needs the US Navy and US Marines due to the fact that China wants to take over all the islands in the Philippine Sea. I wonder what the Philippine Navy/Army can do to fend off the China Navy on the high seas?

  2. I think this will be a good start to rally our compatriots aboard and encourage them to contribute to donate to the Philippine government efforts to the current military modernization funds particularly for the defense of our territory defense articles for the Philippine navy and air force. There are millions of Filipinos overseas and given the assumption that 12 million have contributed US$1 each to these funds that translates to US$12 million plus for those in our country who are willing to share/contribute we could have purchase the much needed defense articles in time.

    Our country lacks the capability to deter foreign aggression and defend our territory and China for instance has taken advantage of this situation. China’s foreign policy makers have calculated that in case this conflict results in armed conflict they see it as a test of their national pride and military might and will even flex their economic reach to see to it that the US will not even come to aid the Philippine government in head to head combat. This is a case that we have to rely on our own. Senator Enrile is right regardless of our affiliations we must rally and support our present government in the administration of President Aquino. We have duty and obligation to protect our country. The US under the administration of President Obama is reluctant to even raise the issue to the Chinese government. Mr. Obama is much more tuned on his re-election bid and given the stance of his weak foreign policies there is no guarantee that we could rely heavily on his government support. We are left on our own.

  3. M. Matthews wrote:

    Sir Tolentino, Filipino in the Philippines and around the globe don’t trust the current Filipino Government in power.

    The Armed Forces of the Philippine is in need of billions of dollars to modernize its Army, Navy and Air Force.
    For your information Sir, Billions of dollars have been stolen from the military procurement throughout God knows how for many, many year ago?

    The US military has a few hundreds US military advisors currently or mostly in the Southern part of Philippines.

    The Philippines Navy/Coast Guards are no match to the powerful Chinese Navy.
    President Obama will not do anything to protect any of the disputed islands that the Philippines claim with in its 200 miles territorial waters.

    The Philippines need to file a complaint against China muscling on Filipino territories.

    Keep in mind that the Philippine has a lots of problems on its hands in so far as this matters are concerned!

    No one will come to the aid of the Philippines at this time except possibly the US Navy.
    I hope you get this clear about the present danger of China in the area of dispute.

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