first published on the Philippine Online Chronicles
It was not publicly known if America’s deadly drones are actually hovering over the Philippine territory and silently tracking “targets”, until the President confirmed suspicions in a media interview over the week.
On Tuesday, President Benigno Aquino III admittedin an Agence France Presse interview that US drones are flying over southern Mindanao “for reconnaissance”, adding however that the government would not allow US drones to launch airstrikes as it may violate the Constitution.
Still, the President’s statement raises the welcome banner to drone warfare, hinting at stealthier US military intervention in the country.
Palace officials and the military did not disclose though how long spy drones have been circling the south, but a scan of news archives would show that spy drones have been in the country’s skies as early as 2002, when additional US military forces arrived in the country with US “war against terror” as pretext.
The Philippines was chosen by Washington as its “second front” in its global war on terror.
Robot spies in the sky
GMA News reported that a US spy drone dubbed as “Predator” crashed into the sea off Zamboaga City in March 2002. Succeeding drone crash incidents were reported in 2006 up to 2008, wherein villagers held for ransom the damaged spy planes.
Spy drones are controlled through radio links by an operator or operators, who can be located on the ground, in other aircraft, or on ships. A report claimed that at least 168 people are needed to keep a Predator drone in the air for 24 hours, plus 19 analysts to process the footages captured by the drone.
While spy drones are not exactly similar to the ones carrying missiles, they could be as deadly as America’s flying assassins in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as what the country’s most recent experience would show.
Drones for counter-insurgency
Early in February, the Philippines’ armed forces launched an airstrike on an alleged Abu Sayyaf hideout in Jolo with support from a US military drone, killing 15 people which allegedly included three wanted terrorists.
Asia Times reported that the use of drone for the operations “represented the first known use of the unmanned aerial assault craft in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) counter-insurgency operations against terrorism-linked rebel groups.”