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Magnificent 12 Senator Son Calls to Scrap VFA

One of the sons of one of the so-called Magnificent 12 Senators who voted to reject the continued stay of American military bases in the country, drew on that historic event 20 years ago to call for the termination of another “lopsided” deal - the Visiting Forces Agreement.

After the rejection of the US bases on 16 September 1991, we are faced with the new challenge of now terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement, another lopsided agreement where our country is at the losing end,” Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tanada III, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, said during a recent speaking engagement at the University of the Philippines.

Resolution 1259, which called for the termination of the RP-US Military Bases Agreement, which was approved by a 12-11 vote, was sponsored by the lawmaker’s father, then Senator Wigberto Tanada.

Two decades since, Tanada said he has sponsored Joint Resolution 17 to rescind the VFA.

I have filed the joint resolution because I believe it is high time we carry on with the struggle that saw triumph 20 years ago. We need to pass both resolutions in the House and in the Senate to make it clear that the Philippines will not stand idle while our sovereignty and rights as a people are violated by the military might of a powerful nation,” he said.

Even without the VFA, he said, the country’s ties with the US will remain strong.

I am sure we can continue our history of amity, but we definitely need another way to give it expression. We can give them a hand, and we should, but I can’t see why we should give them the whole arm,” he said.

Signed in February 10, 1988 by the Philippines and the United States, represented by Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon Jr. and US Ambassador Thomas C. Hubbard, the VFA allows the return of American servicemen to the country for joint military exercises with Philippine troops.

Although it is considered a mere executive agreement by the United States, the VFA was ratified by the Senate on May 27, 1999, making it, in effect, a treaty for the Philippines.

In pressing for the VFA’s termination, Tanada cited reports of direct participation of American troops in military operations that, he said, posed danger to civilians.

The VFA itself was never meant for activities involving combat, but it hides under the pretentious cloak of simple military training. Yet we find a myriad of reports where American soldiers have engaged in direct combat operations. Some reports also said that they have violated the laws of our country and threatened the safety of innocent civilians,” the lawmaker said.

Joint Resolution No. 17 states that “The VFA does not have ample specifications and limits on the quantity and identity of US troops allowed to enter the country, which violates the territorial integrity of the Philippines under the Constitution.”

The resolution also cited the case of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, who was convicted of rape but was spirited out of the Makati City jail and handed over to the Americans by the Arroyo administration.

Smith, who was eventually acquitted by the Court of Appeals, was detained at the US embassy in Manila, “an act deemed illegal and not in accordance with the VFA by the Supreme Court in Nicolas v. Romulo (2009), which thus shows the flaw in the VFA in terms of custody of erring American soldiers,” Tanada said.

Harping on what his father said in voting against the continued stay of the US bases in 1991, Tanada said: “What needs to be re-stated is that we did not boot out US military bases in 1991 only to invite old masters back on our shores. We did not reclaim Subic and Clark and make them boom with business and economic activity, only to turn back the clock to a shameful past of inequality and mendicancy.”

- InterAksyon