May 21, 2011
The RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement turns 12 years next week amid continuing controversies on its implementation in the Philippines. The military agreement was ratified as a treaty by the Philippine Senate in May 27, 1999. It has not been ratified by the US Senate but the American government says it considers the VFA a treaty.
“The US embassy has recently issued patently self-serving and misleading statement to the effect that there are no problems with the VFA. This is farthest from the truth. There is an ongoing Palace review focused on criminal jurisdiction and custody of US troops who have violated Philippine laws. There are calls for the expulsion of the overstaying US troops in Zamboanga. There have been questions on why a nuclear-powered warship was allowed entry into the country despite the nuke-free provisions of the PH Constitution,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“Of course the US embassy will say it isn’t broke, so don’t fix it. The US government wants to keep this one-sided agreement intact. It would be a shame if the Philippine government will not stand up to this barefaced lying and manipulation being done by the US government,” Reyes said.
Bayan has repeatedly questioned the indefinite presence of US Special Forces form the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines who have been based in Zamboanga since 2002. The group said that their presence already goes against the definition of “visiting” troops.
The VFA was also embroiled in controversy after the US government refused to have then convicted rapist Daniel Smith placed in a Philippine detention facility and had him transferred from the Makati City Jail. The Philippine Supreme Court ruled that the transfer of Smith was illegal.
“The US embassy has become a factory of lies for the retention of the VFA. It cannot find comfort in the Supreme Court decision that the VFA is constitutional. That ruling will not stand the test of time and will become untenable as new problems related to the VFA arise each year,” Reyes said.
“US troops are engaged in so many undefined activities in the country, especially in the name of the ‘war on terror’. We will not be surprised that US forces have engaged in actual combat operations similar to what they did in the raid against bin Laden in Pakistan. We would not be surprised if they operate secrete prisons or rendition facilities in the country, under cover of so-called counter-terror training,” Reyes said.
Bayan called on the Aquino government, through the Office of the Executive Secretary and the Department of Justice, to release the results of the VFA review as the assailed agreement marks its 12th year of implementation.
“The Palace review of the VFA is the first by the executive in 12 years that the VFA has been in effect. The review should lead to the termination of the VFA. The pact is beyond redemption and is a violation of our sovereignty. We can definitely live without this one-sided agreement. The country will not collapse simply because we do not get US military junk and hand-me-downs,” Reyes said.
“It’s time this government assert national sovereignty and national interest and discard the myth of ‘special relations’, mutuality and reciprocity of the VFA. We must remember that under the VFA 2 counterpart-agreement, Filipino troops do not get any of the benefits and privileges enjoyed the US troops in the Philippines,” he added.
Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan