oh no, another VFA in the making :(
so. the president has certified the ratification of the RP-Australia Visiting Forces Agreement as urgent, and the senate is called upon to approve and make it a binding agreement.
yesterday i caught senator miriam on the senate website’s livestream interpellating proponent senator loren on the infirmities of the agreement. read Miriam slams Australia VFA where she points out the vagueness of certain provisions such as the “other activities mutually approved by the Parties,” the lack of specificity on the magnitude of the Australian military presence, the matter of tax exemptions that needs the approval of the majority of both houses of congress, and the rules on criminal jurisdiction that, she says, impinge on the supreme court’s exclusive powers.
nonetheless, today the senate passed the resolution on second reading, just before taking off for another vacation.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile -together with Senators Loren Legarda, Jinggoy Estrada, Franklin Drilon, Vicente Sotto III, Pia Cayetano, Bong Revilla, Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, Antonio Trillanes IV, Edgardo Angara, Kiko Pangilinan, Panfilo Lacson and Gregorio Honasan – voted to approve the measure on second reading.
Meanwhile Senators Joker Arroyo, Ralph Recto, Serge Osmeña III, Ferdinand Marcos, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Miriam Defensor-Santiago voted against the passing of the SOVFA or Senate Resolution 788, which was certified by President Benigno Aquino III as urgent and was sponsored by Senator Loren Legarda on Monday. There were 21 senators present during the plenary session.
i suppose it will be first on the senate agenda when they resume sessions in august. second lang malamang ang RH bill. hopefully, mainstream and social media will be paying attention then and raising the questions that need to be raised.
for the record: the status of visiting forces agreement (SOFVA) was signed in australia on 31 may 2007 by then defense sec hermogenes ebdane jr and his counterpart defense minister brendan nelson in the presence of president gloria macapagal-arroyo and then australian prime minister john howard.
the curious thing is, president gloria sat on the agreement. in october of that year, some 4 months after the signing, opposition senators mar roxas and jinggoy estrada were complaining that gma had yet to officially transmit for Senate concurrence the Visiting Forces Agreement signed between the Republic of the Philippines and Government of Australia on May 31, 2007.
“Australia is one of the largest providers of defense training to our soldiers, second only to the United States. It has also been generous in funding human rights projects in the Philippines. Certainly, a defense agreement such as this deserves urgent attention from the Philippine side,” Roxas and Estrada pointed out.
a month later, in november, it was gloria’s new defense sec who asked the senate to ratify the agreement with australia asap.
“Well, as soon as possible. We (defense department) were hoping that they (Senate) review it and approve it as soon as possible because Australia has already done so,” said Teodoro when asked about the urgency of the SOFA ratification.
so why did the senate sit on it, too, in the time of gloria? america did not approve, maybe? or maybe because there were serious objections? read Abu Sayyaf and US and Australian military intervention in the southern Philippines by carolin liss of murdoch university.
The proposed involvement of Australian troops has also already caused concern and protests. Some activists have, for example, questioned the motivation behind Australia’s proposed involvement in the southern Philippines, accusing the Australian government of instigating SOFA to protect Australian commercial interests in the Philippines. The interests of Australian mining companies are of particular relevance here, with numerous Australian companies already active in the Philippines. Furthermore, at the time SOFA was signed, Arroyo had been meeting with representatives of the mining industry, including executives of Melbourne-based BHP Billiton to discuss a multi-billion dollar nickel project in Mindanao.
and here’s blogger friend adebrux, very into foreign affairs, commenting in ellen tordesilla’s post back in 2007 on the very day the agreement was signed in canberra:
the SOFA that will be signed between RP and Australia under the auspices of the office of Gloria bruha should be examined with a fine toothcomb.
SOFA, Status of Forces Agreement was patterned after NATO-SOFA (I know coz the guy that negotiated the SOFA for Pinas talked to me about it at length); I reminded the this friend of mine that SOFA (the NATO one) has provisions in it allowing for foreign troops not only to do military exercises but to get stationed in the host country requiring the setting up of military bases for the visiting troops (therefore foreign) or that goes against RP Constitution.
Friend told me that he reminded then DND chief (Cruz) about it – he even snickered that Cruz was just immitating the SOFA (NATO) for RP without knowing the full substance of what he was copying implying that Cruz may be a legal eagle but was still short on the very fine lines in military treatises.
Of course, the Aussies would be in in high heavens – imagine they would be able to extend their tentacles and set up military facilities in Pinas that is if the SOFA they are signing with Pinas is NATO-SOFA carbon copied.
As I’ve said time and again, in this same blog, the Aussies have more intel assets parked in Pinas than US CIAs put together.
I alerted Sen Pimentel about this when the first draft of SOFA was submitted to Pinas. He said at the time that he didn’t know what the treaty contained yet and so he’d rather wait and see.
For all you know, the SOFA that Gloria is about to sign (her DFA chief actually) might be a trap – you might wake up being surrounded not only by American troops but by Aussie troops too and all in violation of RP Constitution. While these foreign troops might want to be helpful to Pinas, their presence could also spark an Iraq scenario in the Philippines, sort of an accident waiting to happen.
Anyway, Philippines beware! [May 31, 2007 7:18 am]
Oh btw, I have no doubt the the US urged Pinas to go for the SOFA treaty with Australia. Not that Americans couldn’t have twisted the arm of Gloria to sign a SOFA with them but with the VFA already going [up] in flames, they needed an ally to take the heat away and who better than Australia to do it for them – acting as surrogate SOFA signatory for the US? [May 31, 2007 7:23 am]
Australian defence dealers have been some of the most corrupt of the corrupt – they made several commanders of the Philippine Coast Guard VERY VERY WEALTHY! Once a shipbuilding company tried to sell a project to Pinas and almost sold it to the Navy complete with equipment that were still on the drawing board had I not shown them evidence that the company in question was about to go bankrupt unless they signed the deal with the Navy (the deal would have given them a lease on life and would have been used in Australia to get new investors in their company.) They had a broker who was a former military officer living in Forbes park and who happened to be an excellent bosom buddy of a former Senator who was chairing the defence committee in the Senate. [May 31, 2007 7:32 am]
there is also, of course, the unconstitutionality of allowing foreign military forces in our territory. palusot lang naman talaga yung konseptong “visiting”. pero akala ko for america lang, because of our history, kasi “special” nga, di ba. but for australia as well? and then, maybe, israel? germany? uk?
hopefully the palace is not planning to ram this VFA-A down our throats without informed public discussion. let not the senate vote on this in the name of their constituencies without first convincing us that it would be good for the country, especially at a time like this, when we have our hands full with america and china, and our notions of sovereignty and security are on the line.
media should start doing their homework and sharing whatever they learn with their public. whichever way it goes in august, twill be a measure of mainstream and social media’s notions of nation.