A New Prez but Nothing New for RP-US Politics

Today marks a historic day for American history. We’ll elect a new president and lots of hope for change hinges on who will win today’s race to the presidential seat. The excitement and anxiety is thick in the air in New York City. Everyone from sidewalk to subway to office cubicle to classroom is talking about it, the noise building a political cacophony that can no longer be ignored. Either by the powers that be or the peoples that be. The political stir in the US right now is rare because we’re on the brink of change.

And the fact is, the whole world is watching.

Even before the new American president is elected, before the administrations shift, FiRE would like to remind all of you that with a new president, some things change and some things don’t.

New US leader should keep troops in RP
By Jim Gomez
Associated Press
First Posted 17:09:00 11/04/2008
MANILA, Philippines—The next US president should keep American counterterrorism troops in the southern Philippines, where they have helped prevent the emergence of a key base for al-Qaeda-linked militants, a military official said Tuesday.

The Philippine government expects no major changes in its close ties with Washington, whoever wins the US elections. But some Filipino analysts have speculated that a victory by Democrat Barack Obama could lead to a reduction or even a withdrawal of US troops from Mindanao, where the Philippine military has been battling a decades-long Islamist insurgency.

Major General Benjamin Dolorfino, who heads the 8,000-strong Philippine Marines at the front line of counterterrorism efforts in Mindanao, said extremists linked to the Abu Sayyaf, which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Washington, still pose a threat despite US-backed offensives that have crippled the militants and destroyed their strongholds.

The US military’s noncombat assistance, particularly the rapid provision of tactical intelligence, has helped prevent terror attacks and training and has neutralized Abu Sayyaf leaders and their Indonesian cohorts from the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, Dolorfino said.

“This partnership has been crucial in containing transnational terrorist threats,” Dolorfino told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

“It has been good for us, for other nations and for the United States,” he said.

He said the counterterrorism assistance should continue under the next US presidency.

The left-wing group Bayan, however, said it would urge Obama to immediately withdraw American troops from Mindanao if he wins, claiming their presence violates the Philippine Constitution. The group also has called for scrapping a pact that has authorized the US military presence since 2002.

The Philippine government has credited US military training and assistance for helping local troops weaken the Abu Sayyaf, which is estimated to have more than 300 fighters, down from more than 1,000 in early 2000, the military says.

Political analyst Earl Parreno said a victory by Republican John McCain most likely would lead to a continuation of the US military presence in Mindanao and Washington’s aggressive global counterterrorism campaign.

But a win by Obama, who has opposed the Iraq invasion of 2003 and called for a complete withdrawal of US troops there in 16 months, could alter the US-led global war on terrorism, he said. In the southern Philippines, the US presence could be scaled down or could end under Obama, he said.

“McCain, an ex-soldier, will likely support a continuation of an iron-hand diplomacy,” he said. “Obama will continue the war on terrorism, but there may be a shift in character — less troop visibility and more intelligence-driven operations.”

Presidential political adviser Gabriel Claudio said the government expects no major changes in its relations with Washington.

“Regardless of the election’s results, I believe the strategic importance of the Philippines in America’s geopolitics … will remain constant and would not be lost to the next US administration,” he said.

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