Are we still friends with America?
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - July 4, 2020 - 12:00am

Today, we are supposed to celebrate the Philippine-American Friendship Day. But is there still a friendship, after all the pain and heartaches? To my mind, we and the US are like two lovers who aren’t sure if they are still in love with each other.

With President Rodrigo Duterte leading the Philippines, and with President Donald Trump at the helm of the USA, the two countries should be very good friends. The two have many things in common, but as they say opposite poles attract, and like poles repel. Perhaps, it is the reason why we are now leaning to Russia and China, despite all the bullying in the West Philippine Sea. On February 7, this year, President Duterte officially ordered the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement. There shall be no more Balikatan or annual joint military exercise anymore. Thus, the US no longer have free use of our terrain to show off the military prowess of its armed forces.

But if this relationship has no more future, it has so many memories of the past friendship and cooperation. To paraphrase the song, "We have no tomorrows, but we had so much of yesterdays”. Hundreds of thousands of our soldiers died in Bataan and Corregidor, either from enemies' bullets or from starvation, diseases, and battle fatigue. We fought under the American flag against the Japanese imperial forces. Our nation was devastated because the Americans staged its war against the Japanese right here in our country. We sent the Peftok (Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea) forces to Korea to help the US ally, South Korea, fight against the north. We sent the Philcag (Philippine Civic Action Group) troops to Vietnam to fight in the Vietnam War, which was lost by the US.

We gave so much to the US. In 1947, we allowed them 99 years of use of our bases, like Clark, Subic, and many more. Marcos succeeded in shortening the period to 25 years. Thus, there was reason to believe that the US helped in Marcos' ouster and the installation of a pro-US president, Cory Aquino, who extended again the lifetime of the bases. On September 11, 1991, the Philippine Senate with a plurality of only one vote (11 to 12) voted to end the US bases. Those who voted to extend were Cory loyalists, senators Alvarez, Angara, Gonzales, Herrera, Lina, Osmeña, Paterno, Rasul, Romulo, Shahani, and Tamano. Those who voted to end the US bases were senators Butch Aquino, Enrile, Estrada, Guingona, Laurel, Maceda, Mercado, Pimentel, Saguisag, Salonga, Tañada, and Ziga.

I remember the words of President Quezon: "I prefer a government run like hell by the Filipinos than a government run like heaven by the Americans." What we need from the US is respect. That is why we support President Duterte's call for visa requirements for all Americans. If we have to beg for visas to enter the US, they should also line up and plead to be allowed to enter here. This is easier said than done. There are about five million Filipinos in the US, about half of them already US citizens and the rest greencard holders. Each year about a million of American tourists come to enjoy our beaches, food, and the hospitality of our women and men. Foreign trade between us is $27 billion annually.

We used to celebrate July 4 like them, as Independence Day from 1946 to 1964. President Macapagal signed into law RA 4166, on August 4, 1964, making June 12 as our new Freedom Day. We then started calling July 4, Phil-Am friendship day. But then again, are the feelings still there?

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