Serious vigilance over the IRP agreement

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We are almost sure a new agreement between the Philippines and the United States that will allow the increase in the “rotational presence” of American troops will be signed. We are also sure the Philippine Senate will make a manifestation (short of a resolution) stating there is no need for it to ratify the new agreement because it only has details that are properly subsumed under the Visiting Forces Agreement.

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The agreement on increased rotational presence (IRP) will push through because that is what President Aquino wants and, like Lola, whatever Noynoy wants Noynoy gets. This happens not because he is a physically irresistible as Lola in the movie but because Senate President Franklin Drilon and the majority of senators cannot refuse the President’s chief enforcer, DBM Secretary Florencio Abad.

Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin may make calls and appearances at the Senate to appeal to the senators to accept the President’s stand that Senate ratification is not necessary. But the telling message to Senate President Drilon and the senators will come from Sec. Abad.

This is a fact of life in the Philippines today.

We have some reservations about using our US military card in dealing with China. That giant has been bullying us—terrorizing our fishermen and villagers and actually taking over our shoals and reefs and building permanent garrisons on them. But we must set aside those reservations now. We must admit that when the US had military bases here China never dared to do the warlike acts it has been doing against us these past years.

So, all right, the IRP deal will be on. It will be a trophy President Aquino and President Obama will raise up together in a triumphalistic gesture of solidarity when the US president comes here next month.

Some serious precautions
Everyone is saying, not only those against the Visiting Forces Agreement and any US military presence in our country, that with the increase in US military men in the Philippines there will be more prostitution.

Some of those saying this speak as though there is minimal prostitution now and it is the Americans who will make the flesh trade grow. That is a falsehood. We have a horrible prostitution problem now—and it is not only in Clark and Olongapo, where the biggest US bases were, but even in the barrios of Bicol and Mindanao. That is because the small segment of the Filipinos who are well-off, and our government, have not been determined enough to carry out the laws and the calls of our consciences to uplift the more than 60 percent of our compatriots—some 60 million persons– from their poverty.

Nevertheless, it is true that with more American soldiers there will be more occasions of wrongdoing between Filipina prostitutes and randy American soldiers. And there will be more chances of something going wrong in social contacts in bars between US soldiers and good Filipina girls–like “Nicole” who ended up being raped.

The IRP agreement will continue the principle under the VFA that the US government will have jurisdiction over American servicemen who violate Philippine laws while they are in the Philippines.

This calls for more serious vigilance by both the Filipino and American sides over the US GIs who venture out from the camps to socialize with Pinoy civilians. The US must have more MPs and impose stricter rules about furlough and such matters. And our AFP command must develop a trained detachment of MPs whose job is—properly and without abusing anyone’s human rights—to protect Filipinos from drunk or rowdy American GIs.

Jurisdiction over American soldiers who commit crimes has been an emotional and difficult issue between the two countries even decades before the “Nicole” case. There, in 2005, US Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was accused of raping a 22-year-old Filipina after Smith and his companions had drinks with her, “Nicole,” in a bar in the Subic Bay Freeport.

Smith was convicted on December 2006 by a Makati Regional Trial Court which sentenced him to a 40-year-prison term. But instead of being imprisoned, he was detained in the US Embassy—despite a ruling of the Philippine Supreme Court that he should be in Philippine custody.

This is a point that must be resolved between the two governments. We cannot have our Supreme Court’s rulings subordinated to the VFA and the Mutual Defense Treaty.

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