Begin with a statement that your so-called allies “need access to Philippine terrain” — a totally clueless assertion that assumes that your current allies will always be your allies, despite the fact that one of them, Japan, attacked and brutalized your country during World War II.
Devise a clever ruse to circumvent the Constitutional prohibitions on nuclear arms and foreign troops and military bases on Philippine soil through an agreement that will allow US troops unrestricted access to Philippine military bases.
Feed the sensation-hungry media with dire predictions about the possibility of an armed confrontation with the Chinese bully.
Suggest that only the United States can protect a country where billions have been spent on the modernization of the military without any visible improvement in its capacity to repel poachers in its territory, much less a foreign invasion.
Gloss over the US refusal to categorically declare that it will go to war for this country against China, and the statements of its Department of State and President that the US goal is not to contain or counter its biggest lender and the biggest market of its multinationals.
Quickly sign the so-called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) to please the visiting US President.
Into that already lethal mix include the colonial mindset of a military establishment that looks at the US as its superior, and whose spokespersons in fact immediately declared that the agreement would enable them to learn better tactics from US soldiery, and you have the more than distinct possibility that the military bases to which US troops would have unrestricted access, where they can build their own facilities, and pretty much do what they please in furtherance of their country’s strategic interests, will soon be “Philippine bases” only in name.
Rather than be restricted — and the word is used loosely — to “their” military bases as was the case prior to 1990, today, thanks to EDCA, US troops will have the run of the entire country.
EDCA in fact expands US military presence in the Philippines beyond the 1947 Military Bases Agreement. The US, says EDCA, will “preposition and store” military equipment, supplies, and materiel in Philippine military bases and “other territories.” US troops will have operational control over airfields, ports, public roads, and other “agreed locations,” and can construct whatever facilities they may require. These will transform not only Philippine military bases into US bases; it will make the whole country one big US facility.
Despite Aquino administration claims that the agreement will remain in force only for 10 years, it is also likely that it will last beyond a decade. It won’t make sense for the US to construct the “facilities” the agreement sanctions only to leave them after a decade, its pivot to Asia being a strategic focus on maintaining its dominance and control over the region.
The Aquino administration has used the fear of China as the excuse for signing the agreement, echoing in the process the same tactic of past administrations during the Cold War period in justifying the presence of US military bases. Then as now, there is no imminent threat of an invasion, despite the incursions of Chinese ships, most of them fishing and coast guard vessels, into the West Philippine Sea. Even if the threat of a Chinese attack or even an invasion were real, however, EDCA still gives the US practical control over Philippine military bases, thus making a mockery of Philippine sovereignty in an area where it matters most: in terms of control over its own troops and facilities.
The pretense that EDCA is not, as the current Supreme Court would probably put it, “not unconstitutional” and is less of an affront to Philippine sovereignty than the defunct military bases agreement ranks highest in the post-World War II list of lies and betrayals of the national interest by a political class whose first loyalty has always been to itself and its US patrons.
EDCA supersedes what thinking Filipinos once thought was the supreme act of betrayal of all, the US-sanctioned declaration of martial law in 1972 which placed the country under the boot-heel of a terrorist military-supported regime for 14 years. (Only with US approval did Ferdinand Marcos declare martial law, in an act that, while keeping him in power for an indeterminate period, was at the same time perfectly consistent with the US global strategy of putting dictators in power to protect its interests.)
Sixty-seven years ago, or a year after 1946 when the United States “granted” Philippine independence, Hernando J. Abaya chronicled in his book Betrayal in the Philippines (New York: A.A. Wyn Inc., 1947) the post-World War II contention between the collaborators with the Japanese and those who had remained loyal to the United States. Abaya was outraged by the US’ maneuvering to include among the rulers of an “independent” Philippines the wing of the elite that had collaborated with the Japanese. Douglas MacArthur was responsible for that travesty.
Abaya correctly saw MacArthur’s whitewashing of the collaborators’ crimes as a scheme to keep the Philippines tied to the US, through, among other means, the web of economic and military agreements that were eventually put in place by the political elite including the former Japanese collaborators. But by arguing that the section of the elite that had kept the Philippines firmly in the US orbit was a patriotic wing, his analysis, despite the welter of facts he marshaled to prove the betrayal of the Philippines and its people by the entire elite whether pro-Japanese or pro-US, fell short of condemning both wings as collaborators, at first united in their partnership with the US in imposing its will on the Philippines, dividing into a pro-Japanese and pro-US wing when the Japanese defeated US forces in 1942, and then uniting again as US henchmen after 1946.
A first-time reader of the Abaya book today will be struck by two things: first, how, despite the passing of nearly 70 years, the handful of families the US anointed then to rule the country in its behalf have kept their monopoly over political power; and second, how the betrayal of the country to foreign interests has been the consistent theme of post-1946 Philippine governance history, whether prior to 1972 when Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, during the 14 years of one man rule (1972-1986), or in the post-dictatorship period from 1986 to the present. Though signed only a few weeks ago, EDCA is not new — not in its being just one more scheme among many to keep the country’s claims to independence and sovereignty a myth and a mockery.
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Luis V. Teodoro is on Facebook and Twitter (@luisteodoro)
Published in Business World
May 8, 2014