MANILA, Philippines – The new military deal between the United States and the Philippines needs to undergo Senate deliberation and public scrutiny.
This was the statement made by 3 former senators who voted to remove US bases in 1991 as they slammed Saturday, April 26 the lack of transparency in negotiations on the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation ahead of its signing on Monday, April 28.
Former vice president Teofisto Guingona Jr, and former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada said the new deal threatens to reverse the historic Senate vote that ended American military presence in the Philippines in 1991.
The former senators, along with lawyers and civil society leaders, expressed “grave concern” over the lack of public consultations on the issue.
“We are apprehensive that until now, no copy of the agreement has been provided to the public,” the statement said.
“Even Congress, particularly the Senate, has been kept in the dark. Only general statements and blanket assurances from Philippine and US officials that the AEDC will adhere to the Philippine Constitution have been issued. There is no official venue for public discussion and debate,” it added.
The military to military agreement will be signed Monday morning, April 28, hours before the scheduled arrival of US President Barack Obama. This was announced Sunday, April 27.
Specific details of the deal, which is meant to allow the increased presence of American troops in the Philippines, give them more access to military bases, and allow them to build facilities inside thebases, among others, have yet to be released to the public.
The former lawmakers said the deal must be brought to the Senate, echoing arguments earlier made by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.
“Just as we decry the lack of transparency in the crafting of the AEDC, so do we oppose the rush to have the deal signed in time for the Obama visit. We insist that such an agreement should undergo thorough and extensive deliberations by the Senate as well as wide-ranging public discussion,” the statement said.
The former senators said the lack of information gives rise to concerns that new pact may be more than just an implementing agreement of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement – contrary to claims by Malacañang.
Deal to be questioned before international court?
Meanwhile, progressive lawmakers on Sunday warned they are studying the possibility of taking the military deal to the international court.
Bayan Muna Rep Neri Colmenares said the deal, as in the past, makes the Philippines susceptible to attacks from enemies of the United States, and also increases tensions in the region.
“The US is also expanding its bases in Japan. During the International Alliance of Democratic Lawyers congress last week, it was made clear by many legal luminaries attending the Congress that the crime of aggression does not only attach to the US but also the country that allows the use of its territory to attack other countries. While we condemn China’s aggressive acts in the West Philippine Sea, we will not tolerate aggressive acts of the US which will subject the Filipino people to retaliatory attacks by the many enemies of the US,” Colmenares said in a statement.
“We will get the support of international lawyers to file a case against the US and Pres. Aquino for crimes against humanity committed as a result of this new basing agreement,” he added.
Against the backdrop of ongoing tensions between the Philippines and China over disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the Philippines has asked its treaty ally, the United States, for military assistance.
Defense will be on top of the agenda during Obama’s overnight visit.
In 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected a treaty that would have extended the stay of American troops in US military bases here. This ended American military presence in the country and shut down the key US bases in Clark in Pampanga and Subic in Zambales. – Angela Casauay/Rappler.com