Presidentiables asked to reveal stand on VFA

Presidentiables asked to reveal stand on VFA

The leftwing fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya)on Thursday urged all candidates running in the 2010 presidential elections to reveal their stand on the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

“Among the presidential candidates, it is only Senators Loren Legarda and Jamby Madrigal opposed the VFA. Sen. Legarda voted against it in 1999 during the Senate deliberation,” recalled Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader noted other presidential candidates– Senator Manuel Villar of Nacionalista Party, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of Liberal Party, Francis Escudero III of Nationalist People’s Coalition, MMDA chair Bayani Fernando, Bro. Eddie Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas, independent candidate Senator Richard Gordon and former President Joseph Estrada of Partido ng Masang Pilipino have yet to issue an official stand on the VFA.

Hicap said Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, the standard bearer of the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD party had already stated his position in favor of the VFA. ” And that made him an all-time American puppet,” he said.

“Why they are not talking of the VFA? Are they afraid of the Great Satan in Washington D.C? Are they afraid that the US will not give their support in case they uphold the national sovereign rights of 90 million Filipinos? This is the time to rise above the occasion and tell the White House that we don’t need their military junks and we don’t like their military intervention and war of aggression in the country,” said Pamalakaya.

“All presidential wannbes in 2010 are politically, constitutionally and morally obliged to respond to the national inquiry on VFA. They cannot set aside this issue and just proceed their campaign without taking a define position on VFA,” the militant group added.

Pamalakaya said national interest dictates the immediate abrogation of the VFA, and the collective sentiment of the Filipino people cannot be ignored, taken for granted or defied by all presidential candidates in 2010 elections.

“The VFA and our foreign relations with the US are major election issues. They should make a clear and defined stand on these issues,” the group stressed.

Pamalakaya said among the present crop of senatoriables only the Makabayan coalition candidates– Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna and Liza Maza of Gabriela Women’s Party are opposed to the VFA and have long term committments to oppose any kind of US and othe foreign military aggression in the country.

“In order to crush the VFA, we have to put more anti-VFA senators next year. But so far, only Ocampo, Casino and Maza are qualified, tested and expected to carry out the fight against VFA and for its termination. The rest are still moonlighting with the White House and its embassy in Manila,” the militant group said.

Pamalakaya demanded the “extra challenge” to the presidentiables a day after the Senate on Wednesday night adopted on second reading Senate Resolution No. 1356 calling on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to send notice to US President Barack Obama to renegotiate or terminate the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Santiago, chair of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the VFA (Lovfa), delivered a strongly worded speech asking the Senate to formally seek the renegotiation, if not outright termination, of the 10-year-old agreement that governs the treatment of American troops engaged in joint military exercises in the Philippines.

Santiago said in her speech that while the United States called the Philippines “a major non-NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) ally,” it “treats us like a shabby country cousin.”

“In return for the VFA, what we receive is paltry, mostly in the form of excess defense articles—in other words, US military junk,” said Santiago who was ironically among the 18 senators who voted in favor of the agreement in 1999.

“The fatal flaw of the VFA is the failure to specify the period of stay of visiting forces, and the failure to define what are the ‘activities’ that they can engage in while in Philippine national territory,” said Santiago, who chairs the Senate committees on foreign relations and on economic affairs.

She noted that the US government did not consider the VFA a treaty, but a mere executive agreement.

The “Resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) should seek to renegotiate the VFA with the US, and in case of denial, should give notice of termination of the VFA” was written by Santiago and signed by Senators Joker Arroyo, Panfilo Lacson and Francis Pangilinan. It is contained in Committee Report No. 1356, which was approved by the Lovfa on Sept. 14.#

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