Misconduct maybe, but don’t send the Marines home just yetBy 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?
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.