Myrla Baldonado is the founding Executive Director of the Philippine-based People’s Task Force for Bases Clean-up/ABC International and a long-time friend of CPT. She leads a grassroots campaign pressing the U.S. to take responsibility for cleaning up the toxic waste at its former military bases in the Philippines. Clark Air Force Base and Subic Naval Base were the largest U.S. overseas bases for half a century before a grassroots movement succeeded in getting them closed in 1991. Myrla did direct organizing in the bases communities, and was arrested, tortured, and jailed for two years for that work.
Throughout the summer, Myrla spent time at the CPT office in Chicago. We asked her to reflect on the role of the nonviolent movement for change in the Philippines and how international peacemaker delegations can support that movement. Following are brief comments taken from a longer interview.
“No one really believed that we as a nonviolent movement could be successful in removing the U.S. bases from Philippine soil. But we did it. From the inception of the anti-bases struggle, international solidarity was significant, especially through lobbying efforts and research on major policies.
“Also there was a vigorous solidarity movement during the Marcos dictatorship all over the world. During the early strikes and nonviolent actions to bring down the dictatorship, we always tried to have internationals there to watch what was going on. It was very important to have that presence watching.
“CPT delegations will be very positive as an example of how to challenge in a way that doesn’t bring violence. Also, we have confidence because CPT works with grassroots communities. We have a lot of partnerships with international organizations, but many times they look to the leaders, not to the mass of people who are really suffering. We trust that CPT respects the wishes of the people who are affected. They know that their role is to support, not to lead our movement.”