Motion seeking to re-negotiate Visiting Forces Agreement filed with SCBy Tetch Torres
MANILA, Philippines—A motion has been filed with the Supreme Court that sought the re-negotiation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which was prompted following the grounding of a minesweeper in the Unesco heritage site Tubbataha national park.
“As far as we know, the minesweeper had no business and was asked not to enter the national park. We theorized that the US Navy personnel on board may have wanted to engage in scuba diving in the park. That makes their grounding there a “non-service related” event,” the Center for International Law led by its chair UP Law Professor Harry Roque told the high court
“The Captain and the men of the minesweeper should have been criminally prosecuted before our local courts. This is an instance where the court’s ruling in Salonga could then apply,” he added.
The Supreme Court in 2010 sustained the constitutionality of the VFA, but ordered the Philippine government to re-negotiate the Kennedy-Romulo Accord.
The accord was tested during the conviction of US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith for raping a Filipina. Through the agreement, Smith was placed under the US military custody and detained at the US Embassy compound.
Section 10 of the VFA provides that “the confinement or detention by Philippine authorities of United States personnel shall be carried out in facilities agreed on by appropriate Philippines and United States authorities. United States personnel serving sentences in the Philippines shall have the right to visits and material assistance.”
The high court explained that parties to the VFA allows specific arrangement for detention. But the high court said that specific arrangements on detention should be under Philippine authorities.
Petitioners said the Tubbataha incident makes it very clearly why the VFA is not beneficial to the Philippines. It gives the Americans a pretense to ignore our national sovereignty and destroy our national patrimony before, the Americans rapped our women, now, like victorious conquering forces, and they are raping our national wealth as well.”