MANILA – The sudden presence of US forces in Marawi, site of a nearly three-week siege by terrorist forces, reverses President Rodrigo Duterte’s avowed independent foreign policy, and raises serious questions about America’s role in the crisis, militant groups said Sunday.
BAYAN itself listed five key questions on what it deemed a troublesome development.
“We oppose US meddling and intervention in the Marawi crisis,” Renato M. Reyes, Jr. BAYAN secretary general, said in a statement, referring to reports Saturday that US Special Forces have joined the battle to crush an estimated 200 more Islamist militants led by the Maute Group which is engaging the government troops in intense urban fighting.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines had said the United States was providing technical assistance to end the siege of Marawi City but added it had no troops on the ground.
“They are not fighting. They are just providing technical support,” military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera was quoted by Reuters telling a news conference in Marawi City.
The US embassy confirmed it had offered support, at the request of the Philippine government, but gave no details.
A US P3 Orion surveillance plane was seen flying over the town on Friday, media said.
In BAYAN’s statement, Reyes Jr said, “The US still has a lot to answer for when it comes to the people of Mindanao. No less than President Duterte explained this before. However, their participation in the conflict contradicts Duterte’s earlier pronouncements on an independent foreign policy.
BAYAN ticked off 5 questions on the US role in Marawi:
1. Did the US provide the intel on Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute Group which was used by the AFP in conducting the botched arrest that sparked the Marawi crisis?
2. Did the US urge the AFP to carry out the arreest of Hapilon at the exact time Duterte was in Russia, with the knowledge that things may get out of hand and affect Duterte’s Russia trip?
3. If the US used ISIS against the Assad regime in Syria, what makes the US effective against an ISIS-inspired group in the Philippines?
4. Prior to the crisis, what role did the US troops in Marawi City play?
5. Did President Duterte formally request US intervention in the Marawi crisis?
BAYAN lamented that “the Duterte regime has backtracked on its vow to remove foreign troops from Philippine soil and has now allowed foreign intervention in a domestic issue,” adding, “There will be serious repercussions.”