Part 3 of this three-part series. Part 1 came out on Sunday Nov. 1, Part 2 yesterday Saturday Nov. 7.
ON the American scorecard, therefore, President Aquino rates a resounding excellent.
And this is the Philippines’ great worry now. Its president continues to mind less about the country’s welfare than about urgent US concerns. His stated position on the intrusion by US warship into Chinese-claimed waters is a virtual declaration of war against a nation seized with heightened belligerence.
“The actions of the U.S. warship have threatened China’s sovereignty and security interests, jeopardized the safety of personnel and facilities on the reefs, and damaged regional peace and stability,” declared the Chinese Foreign Ministry on its website, as quoted by Associated Press. “The Chinese side expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition.”
Already in World War II Filipinos fought America’s war and suffered great cost. Are we to do it one more time?
It is really no longer a question of whether or not Filipinos, in the South China Sea conflict, will fight America’s war once again. We will. We already are into it. This is endemic in the country’s military tie-up with the United States.
Despite the dismantling of the US air and naval bases in 1991, the Philippines has continued to be tied to America’s apron string militarily. The RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), a non-ending pact, has continued to be in force, serving as framework for all subsequent military arrangements between the United States and the Philippines, like the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), made during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos, and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), signed in conjunction with the visit to the country by US President Barack Obama in April 2014.
According to the MDT, when America goes to war, the Philippines fights that war. So it was in the Vietnam War, so it was in US campaign against Iraq.
Now into the escalation of the South China Sea conflict, the BBL becomes of utmost necessity for the United States. The occupation and military build-up by China on the Spratlys preempt US need for forward bases in their confrontation while itself gaining forward positions from which targets may be reachable by its current capabilities in the event hostilities break out.
According to the Spratly scenario in the Rand study, China’s missiles can only hit targets in Japan. By moving forward to the Spratlys, China places itself in the same strategic position as that of the Philippines relative to US military emplacements in Southeast Asia and elsewhere in the region. If in place, the BBL would enable US to rebuild lost bases in the Philippines thereby evening things up with China in its own war adventures.
But as things turned out, the BBL has veered much from what it had been originally meant to be. Had the first draft of the FAB signed by Leonen with MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal been followed, the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) would have been established already and the BBL no longer a concern of the Philippine Senate but of the Muslim Mindanao sub-state. Granting that the BBL may still be approved within the little time left of the Aquino administration, it’s no longer likely that it will still serve the original intention for which it had been conceived as far back as the Kristie Kinney tour of duty in the Philippines in 2008.
Under scrutiny by the Senate Committee on Local Government chaired by Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., the BBL underwent thorough watering down, with its aspects of “a state within state” completely obliterated. It’s title itself, Bangsamoro Basic Law, has been changed to Bangsamoro Autonomous Region Law (BARL).
But then, the escalation of the South China Sea conflict perforce changes the rules of the game. Doesn’t China’s annexation of the Spratlys constitute invasion? What does the Philippine constitution say about it?
“ARTICLE VII, SECTION 18. The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”
The seething scenario in the South China Sea does give Aquino a golden chance of performing one more supreme subservience to the United States by passing the original BBL – his own way, after all.
Food for our thought.