Thursday, October 22, 2020
 
Home Opinion Op-Ed Columns V is for Valentine as much as for VFA

V is for Valentine as much as for VFA

 

MAURO GIA SAMONTE

This combination of figures of speech serves merely to illustrate that the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States comes during the season of hearts. But while there is nothing but amorous element in the first symbolism, there just is no love lost between the Philippines and the US in the second metaphor.

VFA, concluded between the two countries in 1998, to begin with came about as a convenient replacement for the Military Bases Agreement of 1947 that the Philippine Senate effectively abrogated in 1991 by killing the President Corazon Aquino-sponsored resolution calling for its extension; the bases agreement lapsed that year.

 

The VFA then represented an evil that, in turn, needed killing in the relationship between the US and the Philippines. It continuously got the country embroiled in the military adventures of the US the world over, while not obliging the US to do the same in the event the Philippines got into a military entanglement of its own. I say “in the event” because the Philippines, with its avowed constitutional rejection of war as a national policy, is highly unlikely to go to war with any nation on its own.

If Filipino military forces have ever stepped on foreign land at all, it is in compliance with an order of the United Nations, for instance, the Philippine peacekeeping force in East Timor; otherwise, its foreign military sojourns have all been made to advance America’s objectives, like the Philippine participation in the Korean war in the 1950s, the Philippine Civic Action Group in the Vietnam War in the 1960s and the Philippine contingent in the US-sponsored “Coalition of the Willing” that warred with Iraq in 2004.

What had been worst was the Philippines latent surrender of sovereignty to America under the VFA. This was the case with US Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, whom a Philippine court found guilty of raping a Filipina, but was refused by the US Embassy to be handed over to Philippine authorities for execution of the sentence. Instead, the American rapist was flown back to safety in the US.

It would be well to stress that the Philippines has had no war of its own to talk about, has not been under any foreign military aggression over the past 65 years. There appears no danger at all of the Philippines falling under military attack by a foreign power except by the US itself. Records bear out that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebellion that had its heyday in 2000 was a US-machinated uprising that Maj. Alexander Balutan of the Philippine Marines, following the all-out war policy of former president Joseph Estrada, ultimately quelled with the capture of the last MILF stronghold, Camp Abubakar. If writer Wendy Carbonnel is to be believed, the siege of Marawi by the Maute and Abbu Sayyaf groups in 2017, begun while President Rodrigo Duterte was visiting Russia, was US-funded and directed, as evidenced by the use by the rebels of high-end rifles exclusive to American troops.

Way back in the ‘60s, when the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) rebellion began, it was discovered by the Philippine military that the communist rebels were armed with high-end rifles delivered straight from the US Clark Airbase in Pampanga.

Whether from the MILF front, from that of the CPP-NPA, or from terrorists groups, war against the Philippine Republic has all been war by the United States of America. I am itching to add to this category the continuing destabilization moves against President Duterte, which The Manila Times Chairman Emeritus Dr. Dante A. Ang had exposed as being a machination by former US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg.

Into the post-World War period, the Philippines had never been under any compulsion to strike military alliance with any foreign power. As Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev pointed out in one media forum sometime ago, a military alliance presupposes a common enemy between the parties. If this were true, then the VFA perforce crumbles on its own, there being no common enemy existing between the US and the Philippines. President Duterte’s successful cementing of friendly relations with China has effectively erased the myth that China is a Philippine enemy. Which enemy grants you economic and infrastructure development assistance packages now amounting to $50 billion and counting?

Moreover, with the US being the effective instigator of major Philippine internal upheavals, it is extremely illogical, worst stupid, that the country allies with America. Both Christ and Mao Zedong did preach, “Love your enemy,” but neither said, “Fight your enemy’s fight while he stabs you from behind.”

Talks about the termination of the VFA needing the consent of the Senate are ill advised. Article IX of the Agreement reads in the concluding portion: “This agreement shall remain in force until the expiration of 180 days from the date on which either party gives the other party notice in writing that it desires to terminate the agreement.”

Such a notice has been prepared by Malacañang and having been signed by Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., was sent to the US Embassy.

As per the Agreement, that official notice is all that it takes for the VFA to be deemed terminated, that is, after a lapse of 180 days.

At the Mama Rosa Restaurant in Barangay Kapitolyo, Pasig, the Scramdt (Scrap the MDT), a group dedicated to a campaign for the abrogation of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the United States and the Philippines concluded in 1951, is having a luncheon celebration of the VFA scrapping. Already, I am envisioning a rephrase of Napoleon Bonaparte when he said, “Today Rome, tomorrow the world!” I would propose a toast, “Today, the VFA, tomorrow the MDT.”

Intriguingly enough, Napoleon conquered Italy on Feb. 10, 1798; the VFA was signed Feb. 10, 1998. Make anything out of these coincidences of dates. At any rate, as Napoleon was ultimately vanquished in Waterloo in 1815, so is the VFA terminated with the delivery of the notice to that effect nearly on the same day in February, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the letter was received at 18 hundred hours and 15 minutes at, surely not Waterloo, but lo! another water, the Manila Bay that directly fringes the US Embassy.

And that, in so many words, is how the VFA happened to meet its Waterloo.

 

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