ON THE 11th ANNIVERSARY OF THE OUSTER OF THE US MILITARY BASES
Why We Need to Relive Sept. 16, 1991
Wigberto E. Tanada
September 16, 2002
Ang Bahay ng Alumni, UP Diliman, Quezon City
Wigberto E. Tanada is a former Senator who on Sept. 16, 1991, led the Philippine Senate in rejecting the proposed bases treaty, thus terminating almost a century of U.S. military bases on Philippine soil. He is currently the President of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, and Lead Convenor of the Gathering for Peace coalition.
Labing-isang taon na ang nakalipas mula nang hinarap natin ang isang malaking hamon, isang pambihirang pagsubok. Sama-sama, kapit-bisig, tumindig tayo at iginiit natin ang ating sariling kapalaran bilang isang malayang bansa.
Today, we relive the greatness of Sept. 16, 1991. We relive the historic moment when the treaty extending the term of the US bases was defeated by a vote of 12 to 11 in the Philippine Senate.
We are much honored today to count in our midst some of the Senators who rose above tremendous pressure and cast that decisive vote which sought to break the chains of a colonial past. Let us give them a round of applause.
Eleven years ago, nobody really believed we could fell with one magnificent yet peaceful stroke the seemingly invincible, imperishable US military bases. An Inquirer columnist said I was naive to even think that we could convince Senators to vote against the treaty.
Our advocacy for the withdrawal of the US military bases was anchored in our fundamental faith and confidence in the Filipino. That the Filipino, capable of the highest of human achievements, can muster the willpower and courage to declare the end of a long unequal relationship. That the Filipino can stand on their own feet and chart their own destiny as a sovereign people.
It has been eleven years since the United States completed their pull-out and we have proven our detractors wrong. Life did not stop. The economy did not crash. The communists did not take over. The investors did not leave. In fact, both Subic and Clark are now teeming with business and economic activity.
This is the importance of September 16, 1991. It is fundamentally about self-respect and self-determination and upholding the Constitutional tenets on sovereignty, national integrity, demilitarization and denuclearization. It is also about the art of the possible -- about making the seemingly impossible possible by conquering our fears and squarely facing the challenge and proving ourselves equal to it.
This is what we commemorate today so that the lessons of Sept. 16, 1991 may not be forgotten.
In the passage of 11 years, new pacts, new arrangements however have since intervened. The Visiting Forces Agreement and the recent Terms of Reference of the RP-US joint Balikatan exercises have undermined the lessons and significance of that landmark struggle. The pending US-RP Mutual Logistics and Support Agreement is the latest slur inflicted on that impressive achievement.
Government officials say the MLSA is a mere accounting tool providing for logistics support. The draft MLSA however provides the legal framework not only for the transfer of war materiel but for new permanent basing rights that would allow US troops free and unhampered use of various military facilities and ports across the country. Government officials call the MLSA a mere accounting arrangement in order to conceal its true nature and circumvent Constitutional provisions requiring its transmittal to the Senate.
I will leave it to the members of this assembly to study with deeper scrutiny the real objectives and far-reaching implications of the MLSA.
But let us not be deceived. What is important is that we must insist our Constitution be not violated just to accommodate once again, on our territory, the full restoration of US military presence and the militarization of our relationship with the US. What is important is that at the very least, the Philippine Senate must be given the Constitutional prerogative to lay down the final verdict on a new pact that appears dictated again by what is convenient for the Americans, not what is beneficial for the Filipino people. What is important is that there be full transparency and public disclosure about any policy that increase the danger of war, especially at a time when the US government wants to push the entire world into an unjustified and unjust war against Iraq.
Yes, we know full well, that the events of 9-11 have forever changed the face of war and the rules of doing battle. So why should we then allow the use of Philippine territory to fight the old ways of war against an unseen enemy employing new stratagems? Terrorism is never justified but we should see the problem of terrorism in a larger perspective and address its root causes. We will not set things aright by fighting terrorism with its own methods and sacrificing the principles of law, justice, human rights and peace that define us as a civilized world.
Indeed, it is only proper and correct that the Macapagal-Arroyo administration has backtracked its offer to the US for the unhampered use of Philippine airspace and refueling facilities even without a formal request for its planned attack against Iraq. I just hope the administration will stick to this policy.
Before I end, I wish to thank Representative Satur Ocampo and Bayan Muna for co-hosting with me this special reunion. I also thank the UP Student Council and National Union of Students of the Philippines for co-sponsoring this activity. I am very happy and honored to be here among you.
It is my hope that this special reunion will serve as a bridge to connect the struggle of 1991 to the present. Let this reunion serve as an opportunity to relive the spirit of September 16, 1991 so that it may help unite and awaken us all, especially our youth, towards upholding the principles and values which define us as a nation.
Mabuhay ang kilusang nasyonalismo! Mabuhay ang kabataan at sambayanang Pilipino! Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat!
Sept. 16, 2002
GFP Secretariat, PRRM Building, 56 Mother Ignacia St., Quezon City Call Lenard, Ember, Divine Tel. 372-4989 or 372-4991
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in 2002