Monday, December 21, 2015

Reducing us to a vassal state

Reducing us to a vassal state

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda arrogantly said “that  the government is ready to face the oppositors to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement  signed between the US and the Philippines”.  As usual, he is confident that the Supreme Court would uphold is constitutionality.  Maybe he is right that EDCA is no different from the Mutual Defense Agreement signed in 1951 and from the Visiting Forces Agreement signed in 1999.  But what about the issues which the Supreme Court have long failed to resolve to assuage the impression of us being looked down as a perpetual colony and vassal state of the US?

Essentially, there are three issues that should have long been resolved.  One, whether those agreements are in the category of treaties or executive agreements.   Second, whether we are able to assert jurisdiction over those US military personnel who violate our laws.  Third, whether the desired objective under the upgraded agreement would materialize to give it justification.
First, on the issue whether our alliance with the US is bonded by a treaty or executive agreement, all that can be said is that it has consistently viewed  those numerous defense pacts as executive agreements.  First, the RP-US Military Bases Agreement, which prior to the grant of independence, was incorporated in the 1935 Constitution. The signing on March 14, 1947 was an updated version for which the country ceded 250,000 hectares to accommodate its 23 military installations. However, President Carlos P. Garcia made efforts to reduce that to 117,075 hectares.
Second was the agreement signed on Mach 21, 1947 or the Military Assistance Agreement obligated the US to furnish our Armed Forces arms, ammunition, equipment and necessary supplies.  That also provided  the creation of the Joint US Military Advisory Group.
Third was the MDA signed on August 30, 1951 which accordingly is intended to defend the country against armed external attack.
Fourth was the signing in April 1999 of the (VFA) which marked the return of US Armed Forces in the guise of visiting forces to circumvent Section 25, Article XVIII of the 1987 Constitution which expired as provided in the Marcos-Johnson  communiqué signed in September 1966.
On the whole, none of those agreements was accorded the status of a treaty with which the Philippine Senate ratified as provided under the 1987 Constitution.  Our insistence that the US Senate ratify said agreement is to  guarantee our defense for which the US Congress alone has the authority to declare war or in our case, to declare the existence of a state of war as provided  in the 1987 Constitution. Our demand to elevate them as treaties is to formalize the US commitment to defend this country.   But as it is, many doubt the US will go to war in our defense.   It is only under the NATO Treaty that the US is committed to defend a member state not because of its retaliatory proviso, but of the fact that the alliance stands as a treaty obligation approved US Congress.  
Being in the category of an executive agreement, the enforceability of our alliance could only be decided by the US President, which effectively could be overruled by the US Congress.   In effect, our alliance with the US oscillates on the perception and mood of the US President whether or not to support us, as when it backtracked to support our Sabah claim.   
Despite the imperfection in those agreements, our Supreme Court has not acted to declare them unconstitutional.   Even if one looks at those agreements not with jaundiced eyes of being anti-American, but from a standpoint of equality between two sovereign states, our continued acquiescence has made us the worse of all vassal states, for in that situation, US has  the discretion to either defend us to forsake us completely depending on what is suitable to its interest under the circumstances.  
Specifically, the presence of US troops in this country pierces deep into our status as a sovereign state.   Our signing of the VFA has technically restored the US military bases which became binding after the Philippine Senate ratified it on May 27, 1999. The EDCA we recently signed with the US is no different, except that we officially enlisted our support to the US pivot-to-Asia policy to contain China.
On the second issue pertaining to our inability to assert our jurisdiction over US military personnel who violate our domestic laws, even if we are to concede that the presence of US troops is pursuant to our national interest, constitutionalists and political pundits are one in assessing that no self-respecting state would cede or allow its jurisdiction to be to be whittled down in exchange for protection.  Jurisdiction is indivisible to sovereignty, and there could be no national interest that is over and above our right to assert  jurisdiction within our own territory. 
If we have flaunted it to the world that nobody in this country is  above the law, we reduced ourselves to  miserable clowns by granting criminal immunity to US soldiers, and we elevated them to be above our laws.  The sad thing, our Supreme Court has not decided on this on the several cases brought before it.
On the third issue of whether our desire objective to remain a protectorate of the US would materialize, since the grant of independence in 1946, there has never been an instance where we invoked our alliance with the US to protect us from possible aggression even at the height of China’s ideological frenzy against US imperialism.  Yes, there was a threat of communist subversion and rebellion, but that is internal to this country.  Nothing in our alliance with the US gave us the advantage to defend ourselves.   The same can be said of EDCA as our deterrent to protect us from that awaited aggression of China.
Admittedly, conflict exists between the Philippines and China over those tiny islands renamed by us as “West Philippine Sea”.   Despite the acrimonious exchange of words, many believe that could never escalate to one of actual shooting war.  Moreover, our policy makers could not analyze that our heightened antagonism with China has mainly been fueled by the US, which is seeking to advance its own interest in the region, but clever enough to package it as our own, vis-à-vis commit us to support its pivot-to-Asia policy.
Our shortsightedness to define our interest in relation to the new realities in Asia exposed our position as emanating from those warmongers in Washington.  Vietnam has is own conflict with China over those islands, but it has not gone that far to align itself with its former enemy to secure itself.  Besides, sponsoring US participation in the region could only complicate matters because US interest is more in reviving the discredited Cold War policy of hegemony, which today is unacceptable to most countries in the region.

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