BY EMILY VITAL
Posted Jan. 31, 2007, 5:23 p.m.
In the light of supervening events involving convicted U.S. Marine Lance Cpl Daniel Smith, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) and its member organizations filed on Wednesday, January 31, a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) to declare the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) void and unconstitutional.
The petition for certiorari and prohibition with GR No.17622 was filed by Bayan chair Dr. Carol Araullo, Bayan Muna (People First) Representative Satur Ocampo, Gabriela secretary general Emmie de Jesus and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) deputy secretary general Wilfredo Marbella.
Other petitioners include the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement), Public Interest Law Center and the League of Filipino Students.
Their counsels are Neri Colmenares, Rachel Pastores, Pacifico Agabin, Victoria Avena and Alnie Foja.
Araullo said, “In 1999, then SC Justice Reynato Puno’s lone voice voted to grant the petition of Bayan. His lone, lonely voice then should be the Honorable Court’s collective will now.”
In the Bayan vs. Zamora decision, Puno described the VFA’s terms as ‘a mirage in a desert of vague provisions’ and their antecedents as an ‘historical aberration’ and ‘anomalous asymmetry’.
Ocampo said, “Now we have an outstanding issue that gives flesh to our contention that this agreement is null and void for it violates the `1987 Constitution. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will join Makati Judge Benjamin Pozon in upholding our national sovereignty against the onerous and unfair VFA.”
In their pleading submitted to the high court, the petitioners argued that,
1) The VFA usurps this Court’s rule-making power, particularly its rules on arrest and disposition of, as well as custody and jurisdiction over, an accused and a convict, before Philippine courts, in violation of Sec. 5 (5), Art. VIII, Constitution and case law;
2) The VFA allows unlimited entry of American troops for indefinite duration to engage in any kind of activity anywhere in the Philippines without need for prior consent by any Philippine authority, contrary to constitutional proscription against the unfettered stationing of foreign troops within the country as well as the absolute prohibition on the presence of nuclear weapons here;
3) The VFA is a product of a short-circuited procedure by the United States government when it did not recognize it as a treaty, in defiance of Sec. 25, Article XVIII, Constitution.
Araullo added, “The arrogance of the US government must stop and all those who have colluded with the blatant violation of our judicial independence, national sovereignty and dignity, most especially the chief executive, the justice secretary, the interior secretary and the foreign affairs secretary, must be appropriately charged with treason.”
Araullo further said, “Should our petition be granted, Balikatan and other joint military exercises justified in the name of counter-terrorism must be legally proscribed and stopped. Six years of VFA has only helped to embolden the Armed Forces of the Philippines in its wanton violation of human rights as exemplified by unabated extrajudicial killings attributed to a murderous state policy Oplan Bantay Laya I and II.” (Bulatlat.com)