Santiago scoffs at rushing defense pact for Obama visit
What’s this, an Easter present?
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Sunday scoffed at the idea of rushing a deal allowing increased US military presence in the country in time for President Obama’s visit next week.
Santiago, chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, reminded government officials that there’s no international doctrine that says a visiting head of state should be welcomed with a present.
“Why, what kind of gift is this? Easter present, Christmas present, birthday present?” she wondered aloud in an interview over radio station dzBB.
Besides, Santiago said, the defense and security agreement was an “important matter” that should not be rushed given the clear constitutional provision banning the basing of foreign troops in the country.
“We should stop this superstitious mentality that visitors should be shown good behavior,” she said.
Besides, Obama’s visit to the country is just part of his swing through Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea and Malaysia, the senator said.
“He didn’t want to provoke China because this might erupt into a shooting war,” she said.
The two sides hoped to finalize the terms for the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation before Obama embarked on his Asian tour.
Under the deal, the Philippines agrees to allow the United States access to the country’s military bases amid China’s increasing aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea.
Philippine authorities, on the other hand, can have access to US facilities inside local military bases.
Santiago asserted that the increased rotational presence of American troops under the deal would violate the Constitution.
“It’s clear in our Constitution that you could not increase American soldiers in the country. It’s not that I’m opposing this, or others are opposing this, but it’s clear in our Constitution that foreign military bases, foreign military troops or foreign military facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred by the Senate,” she said.
She said US Ambassador Philip Goldberg should tell Obama that Filipinos were “rules-conscious,” a mind-set that they imbibed from the Americans themselves.
“They should give us the courtesy and read our Constitution,” she said.
The Bayan Muna party-list group has vowed to question the constitutionality of the deal, claiming it would practically bring back the US bases more than 20 years after the Senate rejected the Bases Treaty in 1991.
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