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Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago: Visiting Forces Agreement up for review

miriam_defensor_santiago_02 MANILA, Philippines – The Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) will review the pact to set clearer guidelines on how US soldiers accused of crimes should be treated.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Legislative Oversight Committee chair, said they must take a “good tough look” at the VFA.

“There are other pending VFAs, for the information of the Filipino public, with other countries,” she said.

Santiago said the hearing would be held next month as Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo had asked that he be given time to attend to the issue.

“Generally, my personal opinion, as chairperson of the committee on foreign relations, is we have to start examining these VFAs and see whether the loss to our self-esteem and our sense of sovereignty is compensated for by what normally are the regular bargaining chips of these countries,” she said.

Santiago said she personally did not like the VFA because the Philippines had been getting “junk” military aid from the US.

“Besides, it’s supposed to be a two-sided agreement, but we never go to the United States, our people do not go to the United States, we never practice our military exercises there, so it’s completely one-sided,” she said.

Santiago said the Philippines must be getting more from the VFA since it had been “acting as a lightning rod for the enemies of the US.”

“We are being used as a monitoring station by the US Armed Forces in its so-called ‘war on terror.’

“Every few years they need to upgrade their facilities and then they go around the world offering these junk to countries like the Philippines who can be badgered or pressured to grant these concessions which normally do not sit well with the university students or the leftists in our society.”

Santiago said the CA decision acquitting US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was “insensitive” to public opinion, especially in ordering the immediate release of the American from detention.

“I don’t know why this sentence had to be included in that decision, it’s a standard sentence in decisions of acquittal by lower courts, but in this case, since the accused is part of a very controversial agreement between the Philippines and the US, (the CA) could have been more prudent to include the sentence,” she said.


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