HomeAsia-Pacific Social Science Reviewvol. 10 no. 2 (2010)

Boots on Unstable Ground: Democratic Governance of the Armed Forces under post 9/11 US-Philippine Military Relations

Rosalie Arcala Hall

Discipline: Social Science, Politics, Military, Philippine Military



Current US-Philippine military relations is informed by tensions between Philippine nationalist versus local reactions to US ground deployment in Mindanao. The unequal military agreements and the legacy of internal-security oriented Philippine armed forces are juxtaposed with arguments that US presence served to empower traditional Muslim leaders against Manila. The management of bilateral relations is moving towards more representative and legitimacy-seeking mechanisms such as the Visiting Forces Agreement and Security Engagement Board that allow for cooperation across non-traditional security areas and down the chain of commands. US limited ground deployment for counter-terrorism under Operation Enduring Freedom and Joint Special Operations Task Force feature non-combat activities in Mindanao. The US and local Philippine military are undertaking short-term humanitarian and rehabilitation projects alongside US civilian agencies. The effects of these activities are contested as inimical to national sovereignty and beneficial to local power holders. US assistance is also seen as strengthening the capacity and legitimizing the Philippine military’s development role.