BAYAN USA and GABRIELA USA denounce President Duterte’s decision to retain the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States. The deal came after Duterte met with the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, and is supposedly meant to bolster the military alliance between the two countries in the face of Chinese aggression in Philippine waters.
“In reality, the retention of the VFA will only further escalate tensions between the U.S. and China, placing the Philippines in a dire spot between two warring imperialist powers,” argued Niko Cababa, the Secretary General of BAYAN USA. “If Duterte really wants to defend Philippine sovereignty, he should avail of all legal and diplomatic avenues to assert territorial sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea rather than bow down to foreign masters,” she criticized. In May, Duterte called the landmark 2016 Hague ruling—which reaffirmed the Philippines’ sovereign rights to the disputed area—a “piece of paper” that he would “throw in the wastebasket.”
The VFA has also repeatedly trampled on the rights of Filipino women. “There is a long history of U.S. troops committing heinous acts of violence against Filipino women under the VFA, as in the 2005 case of Suzette ‘Nicole’ Nicolas, who was raped by U.S. Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, and the murder of Jennifer Laude by U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton in 2014,” stated GABRIELA USA Secretary General, Terrie Cervas. Because the VFA extends U.S. jurisdiction over U.S. military personnel based in the Philippines, these cases are rarely reported, and U.S. troops are deemed immune to Philippine laws. “The VFA allows U.S. service people to commit crimes in the Philippines with impunity, leaving women and the rest of the Filipino people robbed of justice,” Cervas concluded.
BAYAN USA and GABRIELA USA uphold the need for a people’s government that will chart its own independent foreign policy for the benefit of the Filipino masses rather than that of imperialist powers. “We call on all peace-loving Filipinos to join us in the Duterte Wakasan Na Movement to take back our country from the national traitor, Duterte,” ended Cababa.