By GLAIZA MAY G. MUZONES and JUAN ANGELO A. HONGO
MANILA — Members of different cause-oriented groups led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) and the Junk VFA! Movement gathered today at the Plaza Salamanca and, later, the Rajah Sulayman Park here to mark the 10th anniversary of the Visiting Forces Agreement and reiterate their long-standing demand for its junking.
The VFA, which was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999 and which then-President Joseph Estrada signed the same year,
A flag-burning activity opened the program at Plaza Salamanca at the corner of Taft and Kalaw Avenues. The huge US flag, bearing the “Junk VFA now” call across its stripes and having skulls in place of the stars, was burned to dramatize the protesters’ opposition to US intervention in the Philippines.
The frontliners wore hospital masks bearing the slogans “VFA Kills” and “Junk VFA” while marching from Plaza Salamanca to the Rajah Sulayman Park.
During the program at Rajah Sulayman Park, Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. noted that the opposition to the VFA in 1999 was very broad. “It was not only the activists who were opposed to it: even the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also expressed their dismay at the ratification of the agreement,” Reyes said in Filipino.
Sining Lila, GABRIELAs cultural group, performed a song number condemning the abuse and degradation of women.
Atty. Evalyn Ursua, former legal counsel of Subic rape victim Nicole, also expressed her opposition to the agreement, saying there is no reciprocity and mutuality in it.
Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, one of the VFA’s critics, said that the agreement has caused both the country and its women to fall victim to abuse.
Dr. Geneve Rivera, secretary-general of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), stated that the agreement gives American soldiers the leeway to enter the country without subjecting themselves to medical examinations by Philippine health officials.
Meanwhile, in a solidarity statement read by Bayan’s Rita Baua, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. and Sen. Sergio Osmena III reaffirmed their adherence to national sovereignty.
“On the 10th anniversary of the VFA, we reaffirm our adherence to national sovereignty, genuine independence and human rights,” Guingona and Osmeña said in their statement. “We call on the Senate to revisit the VFA and for the Philippine government to exercise its right to terminate the agreement.”
Guingona and Osmena were among the five senators who voted against the VFA in 1999. The others were Aquilino Pimentel III, Loren Legarda, and the late Raul Roco.
The program also had cultural performances from Danny Fabella, Republika de Lata, Umble Uno, Talahib, Datu’s Tribe, among many others. (Bulatlat.com)