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Fury in Philippines over rape by Marines

By Cindy Beringer | December 16, 2005 | Page 2

DAILY PROTESTS are taking place in the Philippines outside the U.S. embassy and the country's Department of Foreign Affairs over charges that six U.S. Marines raped a 22-year-old student.

Witnesses reported that the woman was dragged into a van by the Marines. She was later found dumped on the side of the road, unconscious and in her underwear. The victim said she was raped, while other Marines cheered.

The six U.S. servicemen were among 4,500 U.S. troops sent to the Philippines for joint exercises with local military forces, before being deployed to Okinawa.

Angry Filipinos say that this isn't the only case of sexual abuse committed by U.S. forces. A Filipina member of the country's congress called the U.S. military "sexual terrorists."

Demonstrators organized by several women's groups in the Philippines are demanding justice for the victim, and an end to U.S. intervention in the Philippines, including military aid. Berna Ellorin, spokesperson for the Filipino-American political group BAYAN USA, recommends scrapping the Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows U.S. soldiers who commit crimes against Filipinos to "get away with anything from murder to gang rape and not have to answer to the Philippine government," the group said.

Suzuyo Takazato of the Socialist Party in Okinawa was furious when she heard that the men have not been turned over to the Philippine authorities. "This scandal must never be forgiven," she said.

In fact, five of the Marines are being held at the U.S. embassy, and the location of the sixth hasn't been revealed.

The U.S. has maintained a large military presence in the Philippines for nearly 100 years--prompting continuous agitation to get the U.S. out. Under pressure from protests, the U.S. announced in the 1990s that it was withdrawing its forces, but it never completely left.

Since September 11, their numbers have increased, and--under the banner of "fighting terrorism"--the Bush administration has provided military equipment and monetary aid for the government's war on rebel groups, which Washington alleges are connected to al-Qaeda. Philippines President Gloria Arroyo-Macapagal is a close Bush ally who is fighting allegations of electoral fraud.

What the U.S. is really doing is preserving its occupation of the Philippines by another means--and propping up a head of state who can be counted on to support U.S. policies.

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