Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) announced last May 22 that the 10th anniversary of the ratification of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) on May 27, 2009 will be marked with protest actions spearheaded by the JUNK VFA Movement.
Protests to mark VFA 10th anniversary on May 27
May 22, 2009
Various groups will mark the 10th anniversary of the ratification of the Visiting Forces Agreement on May 27, 2009 with protest actions and a cultural activity along Roxas Boulevard at the Rajah Sulayman Plaza.
The action will be spearheaded by the JUNK VFA Movement which counts as its members the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Gabriela, and several lawmakers, lawyers, church leaders, artists, students and professionals. Bands, poets and visual artists are expected to join the anti-VFA protesters on May 27.
Protests are also expected in Bicol, Cebu, Davao, Panay and Central Luzon, all areas where US military exercises were previously held. Similar protests will be held by the Filipino community in the United States, led by Bayan USA and Gabriela USA.
Despite public protests, the VFA was ratified in May 27, 1999. Only five senators opposed the ratification; Teofisto Guingona, Jr. , Serge Osmeña III, Loren Legarda, Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. and the late Raul Roco. Legarda and Pimentel are incumbent senators who remain critical of the VFA. Guingona became Vice president and Foreign Affairs secretary and was critical of the Balikatan exercises under the Arroyo administration. Both Osmeña and Guingona have supported the calls of the JUNK VFA Movement in a unity statement released in April 17.
In the current list of senators, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Sen. Francis Escudero, Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Sen. Ping Lacson, Sen. Joke Arroyo and Sen. Pia Cayetano have signed a Senate resolution calling for a review of the VFA and for the Philippine government to exercise its right to terminate the treaty.
The 10th anniversary of the VFA comes in the wake of a new incident of rape involving a US serviceman, and serious allegations of corruption involving the AFP and the Balikatan exercises.The VFA has also been blamed for the acquittal of US Marine Daniel Smith who was earlier convicted by a Makati court yet was placed under the custody of the US embassy. The Supreme Court had ruled that the US embassy custody of Smith was illegal.
The JUNK VFA Movement believes it is time for an honest assessment of the alleged benefits derived from 10 years of the VFA.
“For 10 years we have been made to believe that we are getting benefits from this agreement. Yet we see that there has been the rape of our women, disregard of our judicial processes, and violation of our sovereignty. Ten years has been too long. It is time we move to revisit and abrogate the VFA,” the group said.
The group slammed the Department of Foreign Affairs for repeatedly delaying the Senate hearings on the VFA. The hearing that was supposed to be conducted in April then moved to the end of May has been reported moved again to July. Congress will go on recess by the first week of June.
“Both the Arroyo government and the US embassy are fearful of an honest assessment of the VFA because it will show that we have gained nothing from this agreement. The VFA has failed to modernize the AFP. It has failed to make us a safer place. It has merely benefited US interests in this region of Asia,” the group said.