Contact: Berna Ellorin
Secretary-General, BAYAN USA
Please visit: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow
After launching an international petition campaign last week, Filipino-Americans under the banner of the US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino organizations in the United States, pledged to heighten their campaign to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), despite reports of 22 year old Filipina Nicole’s leaving for the United States and a submission filed before the Court of Appeals by the lawyer of convicted rapist Lance Corporal Daniel Smith declaring that the former US Marine has settled with “Nicole,” who received P100,000 for compensatory and P50,000 for moral damages.
The news of Nicole’s settlement with Smith and release of a statement immediately followed President Barack Obama’s phone call to Philippine Head of State Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo supporting the joint military agreement between the US and Philippine governments. It was with this phone call that Arroyo was widely criticized for failing to negotiate for the transfer of Smith to Philippine custody as per the Philippines Supreme Court’s decision. Now, with reports of Nicole settling with Smith and going to the US for good, it is highly suspect that the reported settlement and statement which attempt to undermine the guilty verdict against Smith, is part of the two government’s efforts to preserve their “strategic interests.”
Timing of Settlement Highly Questionable
“Filipinos are well aware of the fact that one cannot just suddenly move to the US. The timing and motives behind these recent turn of events are highly questionable given that it comes at the height of the movement to abrogate the VFA,” states BAYAN USA Secretary General Berna Ellorin. “It is in the US and Arroyo governments’ interest to remove the one unifying reason of late to oppose it– the rape of Nicole and demand to turn convicted rapist Smith to Philippine jurisdiction,” Ellorin added. “But this will not lessen our resolve to call for the VFA’s termination, which has not even been ratified by the US Senate and not enforceable in the US given the US Supreme Court decision in Medellin vs. Texas.”
Under the VFA, over 6000 US troops are scheduled for deployment to the Philippines next month to conduct war exercises with the Philippines military known as the Balikatan exercises. “The US government wants to preserve its unilateralism in the Philippines through the VFA and the Arroyo government wants to remain its number one lapdog in Asia. It’s the perfect scheme,” said Kuusela Hilo, Deputy Secretary General of BAYAN USA.
There Will Be More Nicoles
After a historic conviction in 2006, Smith was found guilty of raping Nicole before dumping her brutalized body out a van. As stipulated by the VFA, Smith was turned over to the US Embassy while protest demonstrations in the Philippines and the United States called for the US government to turn Smith over to a Philippine detention facility.
“We wish Nicole the best of luck in her desire to escape her past, but Nicole is just one out of tens of thousands of Filipina women and children who suffer from aggressive sexual crimes, human rights violations, and indignities at the hands of the US troops stationed in the Philippines. Some have been killed or have suffered severe injuries due to indiscriminate shooting and war exercises. But because the VFA grants immunity for US military personnel from Philippine laws, they are free to commit grave crimes and don’t have to worry about facing the Philippine justice system,” Hilo continued. “There will be more Nicoles for as long as the VFA is still intact.”
No Change Under Obama
Nicole’s dubious statement and settlement comes shortly after the much-publicized phone call placed by US President Barack Obama to Arroyo supporting the VFA. Under the Bush regime, the US government sent hundreds of millions in military aid to the Philippine government for US military operations in the Philippines.
“It is hypocritical for the Obama administration to support the VFA and Arroyo. This signifies no departure from the much-hated Bush policies of US intervention in the Philippines. Coming from someone who rode on the slogan ‘Change We Can Believe In’, Obama’s US foreign policy so far in the Philippines is no different from Bush in his push for costly US militarization of the region and monetary support for a regime that has proven itself to be tyrannical and to funnel US military aid towards human rights violations against its people,” Hilo ended.
Junk VFA Calls Will Only Grow Louder
Hilo is confident that the developments with Nicole and Obama won’t weaken the international campaign to terminate the VFA. BAYAN USA vows to take the signatures from the petition campaign to Capitol Hill this year. “In the end, this campaign is about respect and recognition for the national sovereignty of the Philippines and the Filipino people, which ALL the freedom and justice-loving peoples of the world agree with.”
To view and sign the petition, visit http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow.
BAYAN USA will hold its 3rd Congress March 27-29 at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center.