Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares said the ‘increased rotational presence’ being ironed out by the Philippine and US governments would only make Filipinos “cannon fodder and no different from how the US treated Filipino war veterans during World War II.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Baseless and illegal. These, in a nutshell, describe the ongoing efforts of the Aquino administration and the US government to craft a framework agreement on what they call as US troops’ “increased rotational presence.” The phrase “increased rotational presence” itself is a misnomer, patriotic groups said. It is designed to make it appear that the US troop deployment in the Philippines is legal when the Constitution forbids it and the Senate has terminated the Military Basing Agreement with the US in 1991.
In a statement, Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares explained why the apparent efforts to craft a framework agreement on increased US troop presence in the Philippines has no legal mooring. “The (Visiting Forces Agreement) VFA cannot be used (as legal basis) because this rotational presence is permanent and not visiting,” he said.
Neither can they use the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) as basis of such military presence, Colmenares added. Citing Section 5 of US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty, which provides that “an armed attack on either parties in the Pacific area would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet common dangers in accordance with its constitutional process,” Colmenares explained that “unless there is an ‘armed attack’ against either the US or the Philippines,” the treaty’s call for troop presence “does not operate.”
“The Philippines is not in a state of war and there is no armed attack against it, the Treaty could thus not operate to justify US presence in the Philippines,” Colmenares said.
The crafting of this looming agreement officially began Wednesday last week, but as early as February last year, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario had admitted in a congressional hearing on the VFA that they were already holding high-level talks with US counterparts for increased military presence in the Philippines. But he said then that he could not yet disclose its contents.
Not only are the bases being cited as justification for negotiating an increased US military presence in the Philippines false and illegal, the method in which the Aquino government is gunning for it is also apparently illegal.
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said, in another statement, that the plans of the Aquino administration to allow for the increased US troops here through a mere “executive agreement” not subject to scrutiny by and approval of the Philippine Senate is “unconstitutional.”
“The framework agreement on IRP is clearly a new agreement for allowing the increased and permanent stay of US troops in the country, thus, under the 1987 Constitution, such an agreement must get the imprimatur of the Senate,” Rep. Zarate said.
In fact, under the Constitution, the planned “expanded rotational presence” of US troops in the country requires a treaty and not a mere executive agreement, Colmenares said.
Article 18 Section 25 of the Constitution provides that ‘bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate xxx and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State’.
“The claim of Malacañang that it will sign an executive agreement as the basis of expanded US presence in the country is unconstitutional. An executive agreement is not a treaty and does not even require a Senate concurrence. Furthermore, it will not be recognized as a treaty by the US and will never be concurred in by the US Senate. So, this US expanded presence is definitely unconstitutional,” said Rep. Colmenares.
More dangerous for Filipinos
Like in 1991, patriotic groups today recall that Filipinos ousted the US bases not just in defense of Philippine sovereignty – foreign military bases are seen as a violation of sovereignty – the military bases were also seen as “magnets for attack from the many enemies of the United States.”
“The US has a lot of enemies around the world, and we can be embroiled in war if there is an armed attack against the US because we are bound under the MDT to help in cases of attacks against them. This is dangerous,” said Colmenares. He warned that it only makes us “cannon fodder and no different from how the US treated Filipino war veterans during World War II.”
“Instead of upholding the MDT, the Philippines must demand its termination because it endangers the lives of the Filipino people,” said Rep. Colmenares. He added that the said treaty has a termination clause. He urged Pres. Aquino to move for its termination, and while at it, to end as well as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Already, the Philippines has received veiled threats from countries such as China due to its hosting and support of US troops and equipment for war, which are openly targeting China. Colmenares said the US presence in the country is only “increasing tension and threatening stability” in the region.
“We should stand up to China for bullying us but we should get the support of the international community instead of the US. We will win the cases we filed against China under UNCLOS because China has no evidence to back up its territorial claim. This is the more powerful and peaceful way of dealing with China,” said Colmenares. He added that “The international community, not the United States, is the source of the most effective support we can get.”