SC Decision Won’t End VFA Controversy

News Release
March 3, 2010

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and the Junk VFA Movement today warned that controversies will continue to hound the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement despite the final ruling of the Supreme Court upholding its constitutionality.

The SC, in a 2-page resolution, said it was upholding its earlier 2009 decision on the constitutionality of the military pact after petitioners led by Bayan failed to present new arguments.

The VFA, which was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999, was first assailed by Bayan in the same year for being unconstitutional. Nearly 10 years later, the same pact was again questioned because of the controversy surrounding the detention of then convicted rapist US Marine Daniel Smith.The testimony of Navy Lt. SG Nancy Gadian that US troops were already permanently based in Mindanao was also considered in assailing the VFA anew.

“Within a period of 10 years, the VFA was already twice questioned before the Supreme Court. The controversies arise because the reality is that the US troops are here on a permanent and continuing basis and because they have a low regard for our sovereignty. We won’t be surprised if there will be other incidents which will trigger the questioning of the VFA in the future,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

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“The permanent and continuing presence of US troops, as well as their combat involvement, will not go unchallenged and unnoticed. In time, the contradictions between the presence of foreign troops and our own national interests will come out in the open again,” Reyes said.

Bayan said that human rights groups are now investigating the mysterious death of an interpreter working for the US Joint Special Operations Task Force in Mindanao. Gregan Cardeno was contracted by Dyn Corporation as an interpreter for US troops. He was found dead on February 2 at the 103rd Brigade, Philippine Army, Camp Ranao, Datu Saber, Marawi.

Greater intervention

Former University of the Philippines faculty regent and Junk VFA convenor Roland Simbulan warned that the SC decision could give rise to greater US military intervention in the country, no longer limited to Mindanao.

He questioned the Balikatan events in Ilocos Sur and doubted that these were for purely humanitarian purposes. He said that the US was expanding its role in domestic counter-insurgency as well as using the northern region of the Philippines for US “power projection” versus China.

“The choice of venue for the so-called Balikatan exercises in Ilocos Sur early this year show that U.S. military personnel are indeed getting more and more involved in counterinsurgency operations in various parts of the country. Despite assurances that their activities are merely for “humanitarian aid missions” (medical, dental missions and disaster management exercises), it cannot be doubted that the areas chosen in the 1st and 2nd districts of Ilocos Sur are regarded as the traditional “hotspots” of insurgency in the province,” Simbulan said.

Simbulan has written extensively on the issue of US military presence in the Philippines and is regarded as an expert on the topic.

The UP professor believes that the US may be conducting area surveys in the guise of humanitarian missions to see if they can set up similar facilities as those in Mindanao.

“The mountainous tri-boundary in northwestern Luzon is also being eyed as a potential listening post for U.S. surveillance equipment and facilities. U.S. special operations teams have already done this in many parts of Mindanao. This is part of the US power projection towards China and the rest of Southeast Asia,” Simbulan said.

Simbulan said that the people should continue to oppose the VFA despite the SC ruling. He called on presidential candidates to “adopt a nationalist foreign policy that places national interests above US imperial dictates.”

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