RP-US Relations In A Changed World: The VFA In Ferment
Militant citizens groups led by the left-leaning Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and the women’s group Gabriela (named after the Filipino revolutionary Gabriela Silang) are intensifying their protests against the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement.
The umbrella group of employees in the public sector, the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) has linked arms with them together with student groups.
This united front of Filipinos has figured in at least two violent encounters with anti riot policemen right in front of the US Embassy in Manila with more than 20 protesters getting hurt.
It’s all part of the lobbying strategy ahead of Supreme Court deliberations on the motions filed by Malacanang and the rape victim of American Lance Corporal Daniel Smith seeking clarification of the February 11 9-4 decision that upheld the VFA’s constitutionality but ordered the renegotiation of the custody of Smith.
Smith’s rape conviction remains under review by the Court of Appeals and until this judicial phase is completed the entire larger issue does remain in limbo.
The question is how the sustained protests against the VFA will impact on both the Filipino and American publics in terms of galvanizing their sentiments for or against the controversial VFA.
Not since the 1991 when the regime of US military bases in the Philippines ended have RP-US relations framed within their 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty come such under close scrutiny.
Verily the two allies are looking for better arrangments in a new era characterized by heightened civic involvement and a geopolitical reality changed by the war on terror.