MANILA, Philippines ? Former Senate President Jovito Salonga et al. have asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its February 2009 decision that upheld the constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement.
Salonga and his fellow petitioners argued that the vague use in the VFA of the words ?temporary? and ?activities? was ?obviously intentional, to give the American forces as wide a leeway as possible to conduct maneuvers in Philippine territory consistent with their regional and global military objectives.?
?There is, at present, no existing basing agreement for the presence of any foreign military in the country, after the expiration of the Military Basing Agreement of 1947. However, the VFA is being used to circumvent the prohibition against such foreign bases, by allowing the ?temporary? presence of US troops in the country,? the petitioners said.
?Since the VFA does not delimit what is meant by ?temporary,? such is apparently being interpreted to mean indefinite, to a point wherein the supposed temporariness of their stay in the country has become meaningless because of the permanent nature of their activities,? they said.
Salonga et al. also questioned the vague definitions of the VFA of the term ?United States personnel,? specifically in relation to the time limit of their stay and what specific activities they could engage in while in the country.
The petitioners added: ?The VFA defines the term ?United States personnel? as military and civilian personnel of the US who are ?temporarily in the Philippines in connection with activities approved by the Philippine government.? However, nowhere in the text of the VFA does it set down a time limit for the stay of the foreign troops.
?The agreement does not contain any provision limiting its application to military training activities, as has been the argument of Philippine government officials in justifying the VFA. By leaving the term ?activities? vague, the VFA allows the US to undertake any kind of military operations in the Philippines, such as launching missiles against neighboring countries or engaging in hot pursuit of suspected terrorists. Such activities are a brazen disregard of our sovereignty.?
Also according to the petitioners:
The VFA allows the entry of an unlimited number of foreign troops for an indefinite period of time without any basing treaty. Since 2002, US troops have been stationed in the Philippines under various pretexts and engaged in various questionable military operations.
The VFA has no mechanism to ensure that the United States does not bring nuclear weapons into Philippine territory. Under Art. II, Section 8 of the Constitution, ?The Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.?
The VFA does not contain a provision prohibiting the United States from bringing in nuclear weapons, or guaranteeing for the Philippines a right of inspection of US aircraft, ships and vehicles brought here for military activities.
The VFA merely states that US military vehicles, vessels and aircraft will be admitted entry upon approval by the Philippine government, without specifying a right to inspect them, or even a requirement for the United States to make an inventory and declare the weapons and other equipment that are sought to be brought into Philippine territory.