Friday, September 4, 2009
Philippines and The USA Visiting Forces Agreement
The non-renewal in 1991 of the RP-US bases treaty by the Philippine Senate presided by Jovito Salonga was a shining moment for Philippine sovereignty. But it didn’t take long for US surrogates (including senators who voted against the bases) to pass the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) enabling US troops to stay indefinitely in the country. Now there are renewed moves to abrogate/review the VFA.
The patron-client relationship between RP and US has long been called “special relations” ever since the latter succeeded in subduing the country through its “benevolent assimilation” policy, at a cost of a million Filipino lives and a despoiled land, the “first Vietnam.” Curiously there seems to be no “racial memory” about the massacres (“no prisoners!”) and atrocities (e.g. “water cure” now “waterboarding”) committed in that war documented in several books, one of which is Luis C. Dery’s The Army of the First Philippine Republic devoting several chapters like “No More Amigos” and “General Bell and America’s Benevolent Assimilation Policy in Batangas, 1901-1902.”
“Assimilated” Filipinos remember only the “benevolence” of public education (Thomasites and pensionados), public health, and the cornucopia of American products. The Left and assorted nationalists—the passionate few—have been fighting a long struggle against this “special relations” but the brainwashing has so deeply affected generations that we wonder when they shall be free from their colonial mindset.
Any move to reclaim Philippine sovereignty (like that of Sen. Miriam Santiago and former Senate President Salonga on the VFA) is like rain on parched ground but what we need are torrents that would wash the intellectual blight in a wretched land. The Senate should lose no time in abrogating the VFA whose terms have been patently violated by “visitors” whose arrogance in dealing with others like Muslims has been noted by a US top brass. Of course, the defenders of the faith would themselves be busy—in the Palace, Congress, and military—to keep the VFA.
President Obama was counted upon to institute change in US foreign policy but his effort has proven to be a dud. He it was who sent over the CIA director and his Defense secretary (a holdover from the Bush administration) to bolster the “war on terror” in the country, with 600 US special forces embedded in Philippine combat units and living in enclaves with R&R amenities inside local army camps. Obama has been incapable of redirecting US policy—also in Latin America where he authorized six US bases in Colombia supposedly for use against drug trafficking and terrorism, but these bases are seen by Colombia’s neighbors (belonging to ALBA) as a center to project US might and regain its hegemony in Latin America rich in energy resources.
So what are the US troops with their sophisticated surveillance equipment and weapons doing here, as in Mindanao? We get the usual crap about their helping build infrastructure and assisting the Philippine military upgrade their capability. A disaffected woman Navy lieutenant (with experience in the “balikatan” and now under the protection of the religious like the NBN deal whistleblower) has given us a more credible picture of what the foreign troops are up to. Again, as O.D. Corpuz once said, rooted deep in the Filipino mind is a predisposition, in the resolution of political issues, to appreciate and understand the American point of view.” Trust the Palace and the Department of Foreign Affairs to do US bidding.
By Elmer A. Ordoñez, Manila Times