By putting the charged US soldiers beyond the reach of Philippine authorities, the United States has made a mockery of our laws and trampled on our national sovereignty. In refusing to press for and failing to secure custody of the accused, the government has shown that it is both unwilling and incapable of defending its own people and of enforcing its laws within its own territory.
If the rape case is the litmus test of the VFA, as it is often referred to in the media, then it has failed and it has failed tragically. It is high time we scrap it.
For if the November 1 rape case teaches us anything, it is that we cannot cling to the VFA to protect us and serve us justice. From the beginning, the VFA was pushed for by the United States in order to place its troops above the law and it was accepted by a government that did not hesitate to sacrifice Filipinos’ interests in the hope of gaining the United States’ political, military, and economic rewards.
Simply revising the agreement will not be enough. Even if it were amended so that the Philippine government is assured custody over US soldiers who are accused of committing crimes outside the line of duty, we can rest assured that the United States will never budge on the issue of immunity for any offense US troops commit while on duty. As such, the reported participation and supervision of the US military in the war in Mindanao is something for which US troops, under the VFA or a new status of forces agreement, could never be held to account.
In the first place, the deployment of US troops in our territory is in itself an offense and a danger to Filipinos. Their presence increased the demand for prostituted women and the military forces’ racist and sexist attitude toward Filipinas created the condition for violence against women. Their exploitation of our women left more than 30,000 Amerasian children in situations of abuse and neglect. US intervention in our own affairs through joint operations with the Philippine military – masked as joint training exercises – is in itself a naked affront to our sovereignty. It is high time we question and refuse the very presence of US troops in our country.
It is important to remind ourselves that crimes against our people, our women, our country’s sovereignty is not without precedent. One hundred years ago on March 6, up to a thousand Filipino Muslim men, women and children were slain in cold blood in the crater of the extinct volcano Bud Dahu in Jolo – the very same area where US troops intend to conduct military exercises this year. The Bud Dahu slaughter was perpetrated by the American imperial army which had, in 1899, violently annexed the nascent Philippine republic in an imperialist war that sought to crush armed Filipino resistance; a brutal war that would last over an endless decade – until 1913, in Bud Bagsak in Jolo – where another horrid slaughter of Filipino Muslims took place.
In the aftermath of the closure of US bases in our country, we witness today thousands of victims and survivors (most of them women and children) of the toxic waste left behind by the United States. The United States to this day continues to deny responsibility for the clean up of Subic and Clark as well as compensation to the victims of environmental injustice.
Simply abrogating the VFA will not be enough. After all, the VFA is an agreement that, along with the Mutual Logistics Servicing and Acquisition Agreement (MLSA) and the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), was forged in the context of the country’s military alliance with the United States. By allowing the US military to train and deploy in the Philippines, we become accomplices of the United States when it invades, occupies, and intervenes in other places around the world. In other words, the government’s relationship with the United States makes us complicit in its imperialist wars of aggression and strategy of domination around the world. It is high time we challenge and once and for all end this alliance.
The case of Angelo dela Cruz, the Filipino worker who was abducted for our participation in the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, has already established the folly of sidling up to the United States in its drive to dominate the world. The November 1 rape case has shown us the injustice of being treated shabbily even in that complicity. No more Filipinos should be sacrificed just to impress on us the tragedy of being on the side and yet under the toes of the United States.
We at the Scrap the VFA Campaign, a broad gathering of social movements, political organizations, trade unions, women’s groups, human rights organizations, NGO’s, students groups, religious formations, and concerned individuals – demand a fundamental change in our relationship with the United States.
We demand justice in the November 1 rape case and insist on securing custody of the accused US soldiers.
We condemn the refusal of the Philippine government to enforce its laws and pursue justice for Filipinos.
We demand the immediate and unconditional abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement and refuse any re-negotiations for a new status of forces agreement that will continue to allow the stationing of US troops in the country.
We call for the cancellation of all scheduled deployment of US troops and we call for an end to US presence in the country. In line with this, we demand the scrapping of the Mutual Logistics Servicing and Acquisition Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty. We demand an end to the military alliance with the United States.
We stand for a new relationship with the United States and with other countries that is based on mutual respect, equality, and justice.
Justice for the victim!
Scrap the VFA and the Mutual Defense Treaty!
End RP-US military alliance!
Endorsers as of February 14, 2005:
Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
Anak Mindanao (AMIN)
Assalam Bangsa Moro People’s Party
Bagong Kamalayan (Prostitution Survivors)
Buklod Center – Olongapo
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP)
Focus on the Global South
Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)
Kanlungan Center Foundation
Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD)
Institute for Popular Democracy (IPD)
Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition (NFPC)
People’s Task Force for Bases Clean Up – Philippines (PTFBC)
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court (PCICC)
Resource Center for People’s Development (RCPD)
Third World Movement Against the Exploitation of Women (TW-MAE-W)
Women & Gender Commission – Asso. of Major Religious Superiors in the Phils.
Young Moro Professionals Network
Dr. Francisco Nemenzo
Sr. Arnold Maria Noel, SSpS & BALAY