March 17, 2009
KIKO OPEN TO “NEW AND IMPROVED” VFA; CITES AUSTRALIA AGREEMENT AS BENCHMARK
Independent senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan yesterday said in a series of interviews that he was open to a “new and improved” version of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). However, Pangilinan reiterated that the VFA in its current form must first be terminated due to its lopsidedness.
“The current version of the VFA is very one-sided because it is enforceable in the Philippines, but not in the US,” Pangilinan pointed out. “The Philippine Senate has ratified the treaty but the US Senate has not. We should not accept such an arrangement.”
“We must reshape our ties with the United States in light of the reversal of the Bush doctrine and his now-rejected War on Terror,” Pangilinan reiterated.
The senator, who last month filed Senate Resolution No. 892 calling for the termination of the VFA, cited the Australia version as a possible benchmark for a revised agreement with the United States.
The SOFVA, or Status of Visiting Forces of Each State in the Territory of the Other State, aims to “promote common security interests and enhance defense capabilities” between the Philippines and Australia.
Under the SOFVA, “The Authorities of the Receiving State shall have jurisdiction over the members of the Visiting Force and its Civilian Component with respect to offences committed within the territory of the Receiving State and punishable by the law of the Receiving State.”
Moreover, the agreement states: “The Authorities of the Receiving State shall have the right to exercise exclusive jurisdiction over members of the Visiting Force and its Civilian Component…”
When applied to the case of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, the American serviceman convicted of raping a Filipina, the SOFVA would provide for Smith to be prosecuted and punished according to Philippine criminal laws. This would include involuntary detention in our own penal facilities, such as the New Bilibid Prison.
“Malacañang itself admits that it has learned its lessons from the VFA experience and has applied these to the crafting of the SOFVA,” Pangilinan pointed out. “This is a golden opportunity for us to reshape our foreign policy and uphold our sovereign rights.”