Feb 232013

Stand for sovereignty. Junk the VFA!

Our country is once again at a crossroads. We are compelled to choose between rightfully asserting national sovereignty or surrendering it once more in the name of so-called “special relations.”

The continuing detention of convicted rapist Lance Corporal Daniel Smith at the US embassy in Manila is clear proof of the grossly unequal character of the Visiting Forces Agreement or VFA. And despite the Philippine Supreme Court ruling declaring the Romulo-Kenney Agreement illegal and that Smith should be returned to the custody of Philippine authorities, the Arroyo government has not sought to regain custody of Smith. Instead, the Arroyo government continues to insist that Smith should remain in the US embassy until the highest court finally decides on his appeal. There is also every indication that the US will not surrender Smith to Philippine authorities at all.

The Smith case is only the most recent example of how grossly lopsided the VFA is in favor of the US.   The VFA also falls short of the Philippine constitutional requirements for a valid treaty. It was ratified by the Philippine Senate but not by the US Senate and was merely recognized as a treaty by the US State Department.

While the Philippine government enforces the VFA in the country, it is not so in the US. With the recent US Supreme Court ruling in Medellin vs. Texas, treaties entered into by the US are deemed unenforceable in the US unless there is an implementing law or if the treaty is self-executory. The RP-US VFA falls short of these requirements set by the US Supreme Court.

With the unequal standards in the ratification and implementation of the agreement, no less than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines in his dissenting opinion has called the VFA unconstitutional and a “slur on our sovereignty”.

The complimentary agreement VFA 2 further underscores the gross inequality and double-standards applied to US and Filipino troops.  Filipino soldiers who are accused or convicted of crimes in the US will not have the same privileges that Daniel Smith enjoys today.VFA 2 highlights the utter absence of mutuality and reciprocity in the agreements.

Apart from being unconstitutional on its face, the VFA is also unconstitutional in its application. It allows the entry of an unlimited number of foreign troops for an indefinite period of time sans any basing treaty. Since 2002, US troops have been stationed in the Philippines under various pretexts and engaged in various questionable military operations.

For being patently unequal, unconstitutional and an affront to our national sovereignty, the VFA must be abrogated. The Executive branch, through President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, should exercise the right to terminate the agreement. With the abrogation of the VFA, the Arroyo government will have no other recourse but to impose Philippine laws and regain custody over Daniel Smith.

Our choice is simple and clear. We must choose sovereignty over supposed benefits from the VFA. We must choose national dignity over so-called “special relations” with the United States.  The Philippines must conduct its foreign relations based on mutual respect, mutual benefit and non-intervention in each country’s internal affairs.

Junk the VFA now!

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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 on Mar. 11th 2009

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