Joint resolution filed seeking to end VFA

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 28, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A joint resolution has been filed in Congress calling for the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

In filing the joint resolution yesterday, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello said the VFA is being used to shield US military personnel accused of violating Philippine laws from prosecution.

“Enough is enough. The Lower House and the Senate are protecting the Filipino people, the people we represent in office, the people whose rights and dignity have been continuously violated by the US military, by terminating the VFA,” Bello said.

“The VFA allows the US military to act in wanton disregard for Philippine sovereignty, destroy our environment and violate the human rights and dignity of the Filipino people,” he said.

The lawmakers cited as example the death of 26-year-old transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, allegedly at the hands of US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton last Oct. 11.

They said there have been numerous infractions committed by visiting US servicemen since the VFA’s adoption in 1999.

“And instead of owning up to their mistakes, paying reparations to the Filipino people and ensuring justice for victims of heinous crimes committed by their own personnel, we have the American authorities repeatedly resorting to the VFA to evade accountability,” Bello said.

He said the agreement has become a major weakness of the government that the US exploits.

The resolution said “recent violations and infractions” committed by the US military include combat engagement in Zamboanga; dumping in 2012 of hazardous waste in Subic Bay by Glen Defense Marine Asia, a US Navy logistics contractor; and the running aground of minesweeper USS Guardian on the protected Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea, among others.

“The US will be brazen about their violations because they know they can get away with them,” Bello said.

Sen. Francis Escudero, meanwhile, said Congress has no power to terminate the VFA on its own.

“Entering or terminating treaties is the decision of the executive. We cannot. Even if the Senate ratifies them, the decision to abrogate a treaty or to enter into a treaty is the sole domain of the executive,” Escudero said.

At most, the Senate can only express its sense to terminate the VFA, he said adding that he only wants the VFA reviewed.

He said the VFA should clearly state that visiting US servicemen should be subject to Philippine criminal law.

Escudero also said that the status of American servicemen in the Philippines should also be clarified because their presence in the country has become more than that of visitors. “They are residents already, they are not visitors,” he said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said the joint resolution would be referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations headed by Santiago. Marvin Sy

 

FOREIGN RELATIONS FRANCIS ESCUDERO GLEN DEFENSE MARINE ASIA LOWER HOUSE AND THE SENATE MARINE PRIVATE FIRST CLASS JOSEPH SCOTT PEMBERTON MARVIN SY MIRIAM DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO AND AKBAYAN SENATE COMMITTEE SUBIC BAY VFA
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