Feb 222013
 

UNDERSTANDING SOME ASPECTS OF PHILIPPINE-U.S. RELATIONS IN THIS SEASON OF PEACE AND GOODWILL

 

By

Jovito R. Salonga

Former Senate President and Former President, Liberal Party

Lecture delivered on November 28, 2002 at the De La Salle University on Taft Avenue, Manila. Senator Salonga was the Senate President during the historic rejection of the U.S. Bases Treaty by the Philippine Senate on September 16, 1991. Now a Law Professor at Lyceum University, Salonga is the only elected national leader to have topped three national senatorial elections in the Philippines.

The First Presidential Election of June 16, 1981 under Martial Law

Many people might have forgotten that the first presidential election under martial law was held on June 16, 1981, nine(9) years after its imposition in 1972 and twelve(12) years after the last presidential election in 1969. Lydia my wife, and I had just arrived in Hawaii, following my release from imprisonment in Fort Bonifacio. I was imprisoned due to the suspicion of Marcos and General Fabian Ver that Ninoy Aquino – who had been allowed to leave for the U.S. in May 1980 for his heart bypass surgery – and I had masterminded the rash of bombings that rocked Metro Manila from August to October 1980. After the bombing of the ASTA Travel Conference in the Philippine International Convention Center, where Marcos was the Keynote Speaker, I was ordered arrested. I was in the Manila Medical Center at the time, due to my worsening bronchial asthma. I asked my two pastors to inform Minister of Defense Enrile and Undersecretary Barbero that I could be arrested in the Medical Center. Both of them said they would inform the military unit in charge but at the same time they told my pastors to let me know they had nothing to do with the order of arrest. I thought that was really strange. In any case I was actually placed under arrest in the Medical Center by the men of General Fabian Ver, the Chief of Staff and head of intelligence on October 21, 1980. After ten days, I was brought in an ambulance to Fort Bonifacio Maximum Security Unit on November 1, 1980 and jailed in the same room where Ninoy had been imprisoned for seven (7) years and seven(7) months of his memorable life. I was detained incommunicado, without any investigation and without any charges. But due to my asthmatic condition, Lydia was allowed to come in from time to time.

Remarkable incidents during my imprisonment and after my release

Several incidents during my imprisonment and after my release have remained with me across the years. While in the Medical Center, my friend John Maisto, the political officer of the U.S. Embassy who would later become the head of the Philippine Desk in the State Department before the Edsa Revolution and eventually U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, tried to visit me. He had a tiff with the military guards who frisked him and took his picture from various angles. He vehemently protested and identified himself as a U.S. Embassy official. But the military guards were unimpressed. They did not allow him to visit me. What an irony, I thought. The U.S. Government had been extending increasing military and economic aid to the Marcos dictatorship and this high official of the U.S. Embassy could not even see me, an Opposition figure who had been openly critical of the Marcos regime and of U.S. foreign policy towards dictators like Marcos and Somoza of Nicaragua.

Through the courtesy of a colonel who was my jailer in Fort Bonifacio, I was allowed to use my typewriter and translate certain portions of the Bible into Tagalog. I spent most of my time in prison translating the Gospel according to St. Mark – Ang Ebanghelyo ayon kay San Marcos! Days later, after a certain Doris Baffrey confessed she was the one who had planted the bomb in the PICC, where 18 civilians were reportedly wounded, Defense Undersecretary Mike Barbero, my compadre, advised Lydia to write a letter to Marcos saying, “ You now have the bomber! What are you detaining my husband for?” Lydia did as suggested, and something happened –as I had guessed – during the scheduled Asian Jurists’ Convention in Manila. With some flourish, Marcos ordered my release from military custody and placed me “under house arrested under the custody of Mrs. Lydia Busuego Salonga.” I though that was funny. I told Lydia and my visitors that, anyway, I had been under her custody long before the imposition of martial rule.

In January 1981, I applied for permission to go abroad for two reasons: attend several international conferences where I was scheduled to speak, and to undergo comprehensive medical examinations. Marcos and Gen. Ver said NO. But when Marcos scheduled a presidential election in June 1981, Mike Barbero told Marcos – “We better allow Jovy to go abroad. He would be one less headache for us.” Marcos agreed.

Distortion of Truth by VP George Bush, Sr.

 

In early March 1981, Lydia and I left for Hawaii, lived with our daughter Patty and her family, attended several conferences in U.S. and Europe, underwent medical examinations, and find out what was going on through the media. On April 7, the dictator called a plebiscite to amend his own martial law Constitution. He wanted to insure his own reelection by disqualifying Ninoy Aquino on account of lack of age(Aquino was 48, the amendment says a candidate must be at least 50 years old), and make sure he would be immune from prosecution for his “official acts”. After rigging the plebiscite, Marcos got his own ally, Alejo Santos of Bulacan, to oppose him as presidential candidate. After the electoral exercise on June 16, 1981, Marcos claimed victory, saying he had obtained 87% of the votes. Then on July 1, Vice President George H. Bush, the father, came to the Philippines to celebrate the victory of Marcos. I couldn’t believe what I saw on TV: Vice President Bush, a Yale man, who had been sent by President Reagan to represent him in the Marcos inauguration in Manila, toasting the dictator Marcos in words that floored me and must have shocked many thinking people, including the growing ranks of the Opposition, back home:

“ We stand with the Philippines. We stand with you, Sir, We love your adherence to democratic principles and processes.”

It was a brazen distortion of the truth. Bush must have thought Filipinos were either ignorant or unscrupulous, or both, they would be unable to distinguish between truth and falsehood, between right and wrong.

The Los Angeles Times editorial of July 2, 1981 hit Bush for his “appalling lack of judgment.” The election, said the Times, “was widely regarded as a sham. The Philippines are of strategic importance(because of Subic and Clark Field) but it is absolutely unnecessary to go the extra step and make the patently ridiculous assertion that the iron-handed Philippine leader shares American democratic values…It is incredible that Bush, whose broad exposure to foreign policy has included stints as head of the CIA and Ambassador to China, should play so little feel for the long-term interests of the United States.”

September 26, 1991 rejection of the RP-US Bases Treaty by the Senate

 

Ten years later, in July 1991, we in the Senate got the message of President George H. Bush, through Richard Armitage, his negotiator, asking us to ratify the new RP-US Treaty providing for a 10-year extension of the US military bases, in consideration of $203 million aid a year.

After a series of briefing sessions with Administration officials and several surveys which I conducted, I announced to the press that at least 12 senators would be against the treaty . Under the Constitution, 2/3 of all senators should vote in favor of a Treaty, otherwise it will be considered rejected. I was requested by key leaders of my party(LP) whose financial and moral help I would need in the 1992 presidential elections to abstain –after all, even without my vote, the Treaty would not pass. I said NO, “ I am ready to go down on this issue.” In my mind, the people would not understand why I should abstain and the senators themselves would consider it a failure of leadership at the last minute. In any event, the great debate was held on Sept. 11. But the most historic day arrived on Sept. 16, 1991. Instead of a viva voce vote, I asked both sides to raise their hands. Eleven(11) senators raised their hands to show they were in favor of the Treaty. Eleven(11)senators raised their hands to show they were against the Treaty. It was now my turn as President of the Senate to deliver the coup de grace by breaking the deadlock and saying NO, thus making the vote 12-11 against the US bases. The historic Senate vote of September 16, 1991 marked the end of 470 years of foreign military presence in the Philippines – i.e., Spanish, American, Japanese and American again.

In my speech, I said, “Without U.S. acquiescence, Marcos could not have imposed martial law. Without increasing U.S. military and economic support, the Marcos dictatorship would have collapsed after a few years. “

Around 80% of the people, according to poll surveys at the time, were in favor of the US bases. But I said – “questions of right and wrong are not decided by temporary shifting majorities. In the first referendum as recorded in the New Testament(15 Mark 15-16), given a choice between Barrabas and Jesus Christ, the crown shouted – “Crucify him(referring to Jesus) and there is no indication that our Lord got even one vote in that first electoral exercise. But when we are alone, we ask ourselves: am I right? In the end, we live with our conscience.

“ I think all of us are engaged in a search — a search for the soul of the nation, the best in the Filipino character, a search for the true Filipino spirit. We summon the memories of those we honor – from Jose Rizal to Andres Bonifacio, from Abad Santos to Ninoy Aquino.

Their collective message, even on the eve of their death, was one of hope, not of fear; of faith, not of doubt; of confidence in the capacity of the Filipino to suffer and overcome, not of his unwillingness to stand the rigors of freedom and independence.”

Then I cited several American officials led by President Dwight Eisenhower, who said in 1958: “ Everything we do in the foreign field has for its basic purpose our own national prosperity…We do not do these things in the foreign field as a matter of altruism and charity.”

I quoted Charles Bohlen, one of the ablest US ambassadors who served here in the 1950. He told his Filipino audience: “ We in the US embassy are here to protect American interests. We expect your officials to protect your interests.”

Ambassador Francis Underhill it was who said that US relations with the Philippines “ can never be normal while the US bases remain…The relationship helps to perpetuate in the Philippines a neurotic, manipulative, physically crippling form of dependency. As a consequence, the Philippines is a country that is difficult to take seriously.”

I lost in the presidential elections of May 11, 1992, mainly because my financial backers withdrew their pledge of support. But by virtue of our decision, the US bases were turned over to the Philippines on October 1, 1992. I felt vindicated. After a year or so, the poll surveys (SWS) showed that around 80% of our people now felt that the decision of the Senate was right.

Celebrating the Senate rejection of the RP-US Bases Treaty in Subic

Because there were so many Filipinos who had predicted the coming of doomsday once the bases are removed, I asked the question: in practical terms, did our decision against the US bases benefit our people?

On September 16, 2002, when we celebrated the 11th anniversary of the Senate rejection of the RP-US Bases Treaty, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority(SBMA) Chairman Payumo informed me that there were now more than 600 business enterprises in Subic employing more than 55,000 workers, surpassing the peak employment figure of 30,000 workers during the US Navy days; the SBMA has exported $6.1 billion worth of goods and for this year alone, the estimate is $1.4 billion. It remits to the National Treasury 3.5 billion pesos in taxes and duties every year.

Beyond these figures showing there was no reason to be afraid of the disappearance of the US bases, our historic decision to end more than 400 years of foreign military presence in the Philippines, enabled us to regain our self-respect. Our Asian neighbors and Western powers including the US, began to respect us. We regained our right to think for ourselves and act as a sovereign nation – no longer a dependency and a satellite of the United States. But I am no longer sure whether this is true today.

GMA’s offer of Philippine air space and refueling facilities in the US preemptive war against Iraq a palpable violation of the Constitution

Why did I say that? I must admit I had in mind the decision of President Macapagal-Arroyo last Sept. 9, offering to the US the use of Philippine air space and refueling facilities, even though there was no formal request from the US government. In my opinion, when she did that, the President was palpably violating the Constitution which bars the Philippines from involvement in a war of aggression. In its Declaration of Principles and State Policies, the Constitution states that “ The Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy and adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land. “ In Article VI, sec. 23(1), the Constitution specifically confers only on Congress the sole power to declare the existence of a state of war by a vote of 2/3 of both Houses in joint session assembled, voting separately.” The President, in my view, cannot usurp that power without desecrating the Constitution she had sworn to uphold.

In the Subic Commemoration event last Sept. 16, I said that the President has no power to commit us to the side of the U.S. by allowing the latter to use Philippine air space, including our ports, airports and refueling facilities in anticipation of its preemptive strike against Iraq—without benefit of thorough deliberation and without previous authorization by Congress, particularly the Senate. I will refer to the MLSA a little later.

Bush did not offer any evidence to justify preemptive strike against Iraq

In his UN speech last Sept. 12, three days after the unsolicited offer of President GMA, President George W. Bush made a strong case for the return of UN arms inspectors to Iraq, the removal of Saddam’s capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, and the need for Iraq to comply with the resolutions of the UN Security Council. We have no quarrel with that. But President Bush did not offer any evidence that Saddam or Iraq had anything to do with the September 11 sneak attacks in New York or Washington; nor did Bush offer any proof that Saddam or Iraq had supplied Al Qaeda or other terrorists with weapons of mass destruction. But “our greatest fear” in the US, said Bush, is that Saddam would be a potential supplier because of his program to produce weapons of mass destruction, that is, his chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons capability, which will enable Saddam to launch these weapons beyond its borders. Therefore, asserted Bush, the US (1) will work within the UN Security Council for a limited time and (2) the US will go it alone with a preemptive strike if the US does not take definitive steps against the regime of Saddam which is a “grave and gathering danger” to the lives of millions and the rest of the world.

It is Bush’s reservation about taking a solo flight in case he is not satisfied with the steps taken or not taken by the UN Security Council that makes him, in effect, an authority over and above the United Nations, in violation of the UN Charter. As I said during the historic session of September 16, 1991, we Filipinos have no problem with individual Americans, most of whom are likeable and friendly. Our problem is with those in high positions of power in Washington who do not come up to the basic decency and the sense of fairness of ordinary Americans.

Of course, the US, the only superpower in the world, has the capability to overthrow Saddam and dismantle his regime. But there is no principle or rule of international law nor any provision in the UN Charter that would allow the United States to bomb or invade another State due to a threat that may or may not materialize.

President Carter Scores the Arrogance of America

Perhaps, it is time for us Filipinos to listen not on an ugly American but to a gentle, soft-spoken American—former President Jimmy Carter, who has recently been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by Sweden as a mute but eloquent rebuke to the combative, war-loving president of the United States. Said Carter in an interview last November 16: “There is a sense that the US has become too arrogant, too dominant, too self-centered, proud of our wealth, believing that we deserve to be the richest and most powerful and influential nation in the world. The US has given other nations a reason for resentment. The US would do well to destroy its own weapons of mass destruction before we confront Iraq (over its weapons of mass destruction). Continued Carter: “ One of the things that the US Government has not done is to try to comply with and enforce international efforts targeted to prohibited the arsenals of biological weapons, chemical weapons and nuclear weapons that we ourselves have and others have. The major powers need to set an example.”

The breakdown of the rule of law; Nelson Mandela says US the real threat to world peace and security

In an article published in the International Herald Tribune on November 22, 2002, International Law Professor Michael J. Glennon of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy maintains that the rule of law is breaking down, chiefly because of the bad examples of the United States – in Yugoslavia and in the case of Iraq. Here are the pertinent passages of Glennon’s article:

“ There was an air of unreality about the UN Security Council debate on Iraq. For eight(8) weeks, the Council labored over an American draft resolution concerning Iraq. The reasoned debate tended to conceal the radical reality behind the breakdown of international rules governing the use of force. Why would the Security Council spend two months deciding whether to authorize the use of force if its decision were not binding (on the U.S.)? How can the Council’s decision bind Iraq but not the United States? The urgent issue today is the breakdown once again of international rules governing the use of force. Until that problem is addressed, the Security Council’s deliberations on the use of force will continue to seem surreal.”

Under Article 51 of the UN Charter, members of the UN can resort to force only in the exercise of its inherent right to self-defense – but the right to self-defense ceases when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Incidentally, the Philippines may be elected within the next few days as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for a term of two years – that is 2003 and 2004. It would be ironic if after getting elected to the Security Council, the Philippines should suddenly decide to join George W. Bush in his arrogant defiance of the Security Council and of the United Nations.

This is why Nelson Mandela, the statesman of South Africa, was so right when he said the United States, under George W. Bush, is the real threat to the peace and security of the world. He tells us why: it is primarily because of the oil interests of the U.S.. Iraq has the second biggest oil reserves in the world, and American oil companies are itching to get in once Saddam is ousted from power. International Herald Tribune issue of Sept. 16, 2002 , cites a Washington Post article on its front page that says: “ A U.S.-led ouster of President Saddam Hussein could open a bonanza for American oil companies long banished from Iraq… American and foreign oil companies have already begun maneuvering for a stake in the country’s proven reserves of 112 billion barrels of crude oil, the largest in the world outside Saudi Arabia.”

Osama bin Laden who allegedly masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington DC, is still alive and in good health, according to American experts who monitored and analyzed his voice in a recent broadcast, but George W. Bush has apparently forgotten him – the ouster of Saddam happens to be a more lucrative prospect for American corporations.

Prime Minister Mahathir of Malaysia, a credible voice of moderation among Muslims and non-Muslims, recently declared that the failure of the US-led coalition to tackle the underlying causes of injustice and alienation that led to the attacks of September 11 could bring about a more serious problem in the future. He said: “ The US and its allies have made no effort to win the hearts and minds of moderate Muslims, but have done everything to alienate them, anger and frustrate them. Muslims are considered everywhere in the West as potential terrorists and routinely abused, penalized and humiliated when they travel. It is not only Muslims who are humiliated – even Christians like Senate President Drilon who, after having identified himself months ago as the head of the Senate, with a diplomatic passport to prove it, was required to take off his shoes in a California airport, no apologies offered by the offending security personnel. Senator Drilon felt humiliated. He could have pointed out that American officers and soldiers who have been coming here under the Military Bases Agreement (MBA) before and under the Visiting Forces (VFA) today did not have to bother with visas and shoes. In fact, under the VFA, they are treated like sovereign lords, with all sorts of immunities and exemptions from customs regulations and internal revenue taxes.

 

The need for GMA to retrace her steps

 

How about the Philippines? Unless President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo retraces her steps, which she initiated on or around last Sept. 16 by withdrawing her previous offer to the US to use our air space, our ports and airports and our refueling facilities – but which she apparently restored the next day, obviously due to a scathing, sarcastic Wall Street Journal editorial attacking her – she will only enrage our moderate Muslim brothers in the Philippines, alienate the whole of Muslim Mindanao, and expose our 1.5 million OFWs, our embassies and consulates, even our professionals abroad, to attacks from Muslim extremists in Middle East countries and neighboring States in Southeast Asia. Recent events do not allow us to forget that Ambassador Leonides Caday was bombed and almost killed on August 1, 2000 near the Philippine Embassy premises in Jakarta, shortly after President Estrada waged his all-out war against the Muslims in Southern Mindanao.

How I obtained a copy of the MLSA

 

This brings me to the clumsy handling of the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement(MLSA). Let me relate to you how I obtained a copy of this Agreement ahead of Senate President Franklin Drilon and other Senators.

In the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 21, 2002, I got a call from Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, while on my way to a class reunion at the UP in Quezon City. The call was not unexpected. In the morning, after reading the front page news story of a major daily saying that the MLSA would be “signed next week”, I called up his Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs, Ms. L. Gloria, asking her to transmit to Secretary Reyes my request for an advance copy of the MLSA , for my own study. In his afternoon call, Secretary Reyes, whose provenance is from Binangonan , Rizal, told me the Agreement had just been signed. I would appreciate having a copy, I said. He promised he would send a copy of the Agreement to my residence, adding that “ the concerns of Vice President Guingona had been addressed.” I kept quiet, preferring to just limit my request for a signed copy.

When I got back in the evening, I saw a 12-page copy of the Agreement, signed for the Defense Department of the USA by Mathias R. Velasco, Colonel, US Army, nd for Department of National Defense Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, by Ernesto H. de Leon, Commodore of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. I smiled to myself. This was a crude attempt to belittle the agreement.

An Analysis of the MLSA in Relation to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty

In the quiet of my study, I read the MLSA and noticed that it invoked two basic international agreements – the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 and the Visiting Forces Agreement of 1999—both of which speak of the rights and obligations of the two countries in the case of external aggression. The central, essential agreement is the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951. Article IV provides: “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety, and declares it would meet the common danger in accordance with its own constitutional processes.”

This is unlike the NATO where an armed attack against one, under Article V, is an attack against all, and would trigger immediate retaliation, under Art. 51 of the UN Charter. Which was why Sen. Claro M. Recto was against the Military Bases Agreement of 1947.

The MLSA Primer put out by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs(DFA) says that there are two types of activities with the corresponding process of approval:

“ The first type of activity are those undertaken under the Mutual Defense Treaty, the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement or the Military Assistance Agreement under Sec. 1a Art. III of the MLSA. Activities under these agreements will be jointly approved and on the part of the Philippine Government by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs as Co-Chairman of the Council of Foreign Ministers as provided in the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty. “

“The other type of activity are other cooperative efforts such as humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and rescue operations and maritime anti-pollution operations….”

It is the first type of activity where there is a double-deck violation of the law: (1) the Mutual Defense Treaty contemplates an armed attack by another State in the Pacific area against either the Philippines or the United States—something that is not found in the MLSA; (2) Under the Constitution, the use of a port where ships load or unload(like Subic) or a port of entry(Clark Field) for the purpose of launching a preemptive war against another country(such as Iraq) requires the approval of 2/3 of all the members of the Senate and the House voting separately—but Art. III sec. 1 of MLSA empowers the Secretary of Foreign Affairs (Senator OPLE) to bypass and ignore Congress.

Obviously, to ally the fears of its critics, there is a statement on the fourth page: “No United States military base, facility, or permanent structure shall be constructed, established or allowed under this Agreement.”

Since the MLSA under Par. IX shall be in force for a period of five(5) years, and shall be subject to review by the Parties at least one(1) year before its termination, “ to consider the possibility of extending it under mutually acceptable terms,” it is understandable that only temporary structures not going beyond five(5) years may be established or allowed in Subic or Clark Field. In fact, we are told in a Primer of the DFA that is is an executive agreement, not a Treaty, since “it does not involve an international agreement of a permanent character but rather it involves an arrangement of a more or less temporary nature.”

Be it noted that there is no such distinction between permanent and temporary structures in Article VII, Section 21 of our Constitution which provides: “ No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.

Again the Primer says that the MLSA does not allow THE RE-BASING OF US MILITARY IN PHILIPPINE SOIL, BECAUSE: (1) IT DOES NOT PROVIDE FOR ANY BASING ARRANGEMENT; (2) THE AGREEMENT EXPRESSLY PROVIDES IN ARTICLE IV, par. 1(a2) THAT STORAGE UNITS AND PORTS SHALL AT ALL TIMES REMAIN UNDER THE CONTROL AND SUPERVISION OF THE HOST STATE.” This second reason is a non-sequitur. The fact that a port—which can mean a lot of things – is under the control of the Philippines does not mean there is no basing arrangement. Port, according to both Webster and Oxford Dictionaries, includes a city or town, with a harbor; an airport where goods pass in and out of a country ; also called a port of entry, (a) a place where goods may be received into a country subject to inspection by customs officials; or (b) any place where travelers or immigrants may enter a country. Under this definition, Subic and Clark Field are both ports of entry. When we say that Subic and Clark Field qualify as ports or ports of entry under the MLSA, we are virtually saying that our high officials who said this agreement ismerely a minor accounting or administrative matter did not read the MLSA correctly. Or having read it, they failed to understand it; or misunderstanding it, they are not being fair to our people when they tell us this need not go to the Senate.

Disagreement in Case of Difference in Interpretation Between the Parties

By the way, under Par. VIII of MLSA, any disagreement in the interpretation of the agreement can only be resolved through direct consultation between the Parties or through diplomatic channels “ and shall not be referred to any international tribunal or third party for settlement. “ I can readily understand why the US is allergic to any international tribunal or arbitrator. The US has lost several cases before international tribunals, notably the case of Nicaragua against the United States. This may also explain why the US does not want to subject itself to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court(ICC). It does not want to lose any case. The US wants to be in control of any dispute today and is uneasy about one principle it used to preach—equal justice under the law. But since the US is the lone superpower in the world with a military might that is unmatched by any other State, I can see why the US prefers direct consultations between the parties or diplomatic negotiations. Our pathetic, spurious negotiations with the US on the military bases after our supposed independence on July 4, 1946 show that even when the US was not yet the lone superpower, there was no way the Philippines could prevail over the United States. The Philippine panel was in favor of US military bases, but they just wanted to make certain minimal demands – no bases in the Metropolitan Manila area and no grant of extraterritorial rights. Wrote Ambassador Eduardo Romualdez in his 1980 book, “A Question of Sovereignty”:

“ At first they tried to hold on to their position. At one point when the negotiations seemed to bog down, Ambassador Paul V. McNutt threatened to withdraw all United States forces from the Philippines. The net result was the almost complete capitulation of the Philippines on almost every point.”

Filipino high officials should get together and protect our national interest – get the US Ambassador to agree to an exchange of notes confirming his disclaimers.

Last November 24, 2002, there were two important news items in the major dailies: (1) the challenge of Secretary Blas Ople directed to VP Guingona to file a case in the Supreme Court against the MLSA; and (2) the disclaimer of US Ambassador Ricciardone saying, “we don’t want the bases, we don’t need them, and the MLSA has nothing to do with bases.” In the late afternoon of Sunday, November 24, 2002, I released a press statement, as follows:

“ Instead of challenging VP Guingona to go to the Supreme Court on the MLSA, our high public officials should get together and focus on promoting our own national interest. Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople and Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes should take advantage of the disclaimers of US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone and get the US Government, particularly its military, to agree that: (1) US will not use Subic or Clark Field in any way or manner; (2) US will not use any part of RP to launch war against Iraq in the New Year(2003) and thereafter; and (3) US will play fair and cancel travel advisories warning US citizens against coming to the Philippines, thereby cooperating with us in boosting Philippine economy. “

“Talk is cheap and as Ricciardone’s verbal statements don’t bind the US, it will be advisable to get high-level American officials, not a mere US colonel, to formally agree by means of an exchange of notes(Note: Exchange of Notes—is an informal method whereby the Parties to an international agreement subscribe to certain understandings or recognize certain obligations as binding on them) between the Department of Foreign Affairs and the US Ambassador, duly authorized by the US Government, that the US will not use Subic or Clark Field in any way or manner, or use any part of the Philippines in the bombing and/or invasion of Iraq, which maintains friendly relations with the Philippines. The US is admittedly interested in the oil reserves of Iraq, the second biggest in the world, but we do not have these interests, said the former senate president, who described the MLSA as a ‘masterpiece of ambiguity’. “

Neither Secretary Blas Ople nor Secretary Angelo Reyes, neither the US Embassy nor Malacanang can usurp the prerogative of the Senate by stating that the MLSA is an executive agreement and, therefore, does not need Senate ratification or concurrence. Senate President Franklin Drilon was right in saying no one among them can speak for the Senate. I reminded the bickering Filipino officials it was Ambassador Charles Bohlen, the very able US Ambassador, who told his Filipino audience: “We in the US Embassy are here in the Philippines to protect American Interests. We expect your officials to protect your own interests.”

As we look forward to the celebration of Christmas, let us, in this season of peace and goodwill, remember the words of our Lord and Savior in his Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”

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  Jan 26th 2003


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