THE CONTINUING RAPE OF THE PHILIPPINES
The case of a 23 year old Filipina girl who was gang-raped last Nov. 1, 2005 at the former Subic naval base by six U.S. servicement on a furlough during the recent Balikatan military exercise only underscores what is wryly wrong about the Philippine-U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement or VFA.
There will be the usual statements by both Philippine and U.S. authorities denouncing the rape, but at the end of the day, none of these rapists will be prosecuted and put to prison by Philippine courts. This is what is wrong with the Visiting Forces Agreement. For these rapists to be put on trial by Philippine courts under Philippine laws, we do not need a VFA. We only need to implement our existing penal laws under which all Filipino citizens and other civilian foreigners visiting the country are tried and punished if they commit crimes or violate Philippine laws on Philippine territory. Problem is, there is the VFA.
Our outrage when the VFA was being negotiated and discussed fell on deaf ears, even as we had pointed out that the VFA was precisely being put in place to exempt U.S. military forces from Philippine laws and Philippine jurisdiction and laws. This agreement was put in place precisely to exempt U.S. troops visiting the country or on transient status during military exercises held on any part of Philippine territory at any time of the year.
Remember that it is the United States government and the Pentagon that refused to sign and recognize the International Criminal Court that was set up by more than 140 countries to try and punish war crimes because it seeks to be exempt from any local or international law that will punish crimes by its troops abroad. Instead, the U.S. seeks to initiate one-sided bilateral agreements similar to status of forces agreements(sofa) or an agreement like the Visiting Forces Agreement that gives legal immunity to U.S. military forces overseas.
Remember that under the old and defunct Philippine-U.S. Military Bases Agreement which was rightfully terminated by the Philippine Senate on Sept. 16, 1991, there were similar status of forces provisions( VFA is a form of status of forces agreement minus the bases ) that gave immunity to U.S. troops for violations or crimes inside the U.S. bases. But though the provisions then did not exempt them from crimes committed outside the bases, not a single American soldier who committed murder, rape, arson, etc. outside the bases was prosecuted and punished under Philippine laws and courts. Between 1947 to 1991, there were more than 4,000 such crimes committed by American soldiers in the U.S. bases. All that the American authorities did was to make the bases a sanctuary to these criminals, and then allow them to be transferred to the American mainland or another U.S. overseas base. So far, this has happened under the current implementation of the VFA such as when a U.S. soldier, Sgt. Lane killed a Muslim civilian in Mindanao. Or when a Cebuano taxi driver was mauled by American servicement on furlough. Or remember that American CIA agent in Davao who accidentally detonated a bomb in his own hotel room and was spirited out of Philippine soil by FBI operatives despite the protestations of the local judge and city mayor?
But this dastardly act that is a heinous crime under present Philippine jurisprudence cannot go unpunished, VFA or no VFA. It must at least become a wake-up call to all Filipinos including our leaders, not only to punish the perpetrators who have raped a Filipina, but also to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement(VFA) and other similar onerous agreements, which have continuously raped the dignity, self-respect and national sovereignty of our country.
* Article by Roland G Simbulan – For a full professional background of Professor Roland G. Simbulan (Click Here)