Tuesday, October 19, 2010

RP : “Asia’s Lightning Rod”

RP : “Asia’s Lightning Rod”

By Erick San Juan

It would be five years now since that fateful day in November, 2005 when “Nicole” accused US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith of raping her as his three companions cheered inside a moving van. In April last year, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Makati court and ordered Smith’s immediate release, saying “a careful and judicious perusal of the evidence on record does not convince the prudent mind about the moral certainty of the guilt of the accused, hence, we must acquit.”

This time around we refuse to say “the rest is history” line because the case of “Nicole” (whatever life she has chosen) is beyond the issue at hand that has affected (and will affect) the Filipino nation. The 2005 Subic rape case by a US Marine has triggered several sectors in our society to review and/or terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that was used by the US government and gave them the custody of the said Marine soldier through their embassy here.

As we write this piece, Senator Miriam Santiago is again, calling for the termination of the VFA even though PNoy has already told the US government through the good Ambassador, Harry Thomas Jr. that the agreement needs to be “refined”. And PNoy appointed his Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. as head of the Presidential Commission on the VFA. Ochoa will only discuss the possible modifications in the agreement with US officials. Aside from this, the Department of Foreign Affairs has started reviewing the VFA for the past weeks and a DFA official said that the abrogation of the agreement is too extreme.

The militant groups see this "safe" stand by our government on the VFA question as a possible side effect of the $434 million US grant which the Millennium Challenge Corporation gave to PNoy in the U.S.

In the midst of all these, we should be wary and heed the call of Senator Santiago because what is happening now, just right in our backyard is a brewing regional conflict. As the good Senator has put it – our country is “acting as a lightning rod for the enemies of the US.” Translation – through the VFA, we cannot do anything but to follow the dictates of Uncle Sam, be the shock absorber and fight a war that we never wanted.

Sad to say that such things are possible considering the glaring truth of the US troops presence in the south for over a decade now. Do we call that “just visiting”?

The urgency for the termination of the VFA is only fair, as Sen. Santiago has kept on saying that presidential action is not necessary in terminating the VFA because Congress has the power to revoke laws.

“Because treaties are considered as part of the laws of the land, Congress can abrogate the treaty on its own. The Constitution states that the country adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land. it is within the powers of Congress to unilaterally terminate the VFA through a joint resolution, and that the executive’s role is to give notice of termination to the United States, although the decision itself is one for Congress to make. In the case of the U.S. government, there should be no problem because it does not recognize the VFA as a treaty. The US Congress never gave its advice and consent to it”.

Therefore, she said the VFA is not valid and constitutional because it is not recognized as a treaty by the US on the account of its own Constitution and law.

We are not against the U.S. government but we have to get what's due us.Need we say more?

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