BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
The protests against the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the US have gained support in Hong Kong, with a group of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) speaking out against the accord.
Dolores Balladares, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-HK), said the VFA will be among the issues that her group will bring up in a rally to comemorate International Women’s Day at the Philippine Consulate General on March 8.
“Women are among the first casualties (of) the presence of US military personnel and facilities as shown by the cases of ‘Nicole’ in the Philippines, ‘Hazel’ in Japan and countless others who were raped and abused by US servicemen,” Balladares said.
“The government’s mad subservience to the United States is very much evident in how it sells out the whole nation’s sovereignty and integrity with the VFA and the Balikatan exercises it entails, as well in as how it sold out the quests for justice of rape victims ‘Nicole’ in the Philippines and ‘Hazel’ in Japan,” Balladares also said. “Even (as we are) abroad, we Filipinos cannot stand pat and allow this betrayal of our nation and people to continue.”
Balladares also condemned what she described as the “favorable treatment” given to convicted rapist L/Cpl. Daniel Smith and denounced the Arroyo government for not standing up for its nationals. She said that allowing the US Embassy to whisk Smith away in December 2006 gravely compromised the hope that real justice will be served to “Nicole”.
She also condemned the government’s inaction notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s order that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) begin negotiations with the US Embassy in Manila for Smith’s transfer to a Philippine prison facility.
The Makati City Regional Trial Court, in early December 2006, convicted Smith – a participant in the Balikatan military exercises – of raping a Filipina in Subic, Zambales and ordered his confinement at the Makati City Jail pending his imprisonment at the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City. However, on Dec. 29, 2006, he was purportedly transferred to a detention facility at the US Embassy in Manila under what is now known as the Romulo-Kenney Agreement. On Feb. 11, the Supreme Court ruled against his detention at the US Embassy.
Balladares also said that the abuses Filipinos suffered during the time the US had military bases in the Philippines are happening again as the Balikatan military exercises are being held.
“Worse, this time with the VFA, the US military can have their choice of place (in which) to unleash its own brand of terror against women and communities,” she said.
Passed by the Philippine Senate and signed by then-President Joseph Estrada in 1999, the VFA grants extraterritorial and extrajudicial “rights” to US servicemen visiting the Philippines for military “exercises”. (Bulatlat.com)