Joker Arroyo: Clever ruse skirts Charter
MANILA, Philippines—The Aquino administration has “cleverly” gotten around the constitutional prohibition on the establishment of foreign bases in the country by allowing the use of Philippine military facilities by United States forces under a new agreement on defense cooperation, former Sen. Joker Arroyo said on Saturday.
“The Constitution forbids foreign bases. [But] this is even worse. You allow your bases to be used by the American forces,” Arroyo said in a phone interview.
The mere act of allowing US forces “unimpeded access” to Philippine military facilities constitutes basing, which is prohibited by the Constitution, he said.
“What you can’t do directly, you can’t do indirectly … What is forbidden is forbidden,” Arroyo stressed.
He said the constitutional prohibition does not make a distinction between small or big bases. “It simply says bases.”
The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), signed last Monday in time for US President Barack Obama’s visit to the Philippines, grants US forces unimpeded access to and operational control of “agreed locations.”
So far, the US has requested access to its former bases in Clark and Subic, as well as Poro Point, La Union, and the Camp Aguinaldo military headquarters, sources in the military said.
Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, who headed the government panel that negotiated the new agreement, insisted that the Edca was not a treaty that would require Senate ratification.
The new agreement merely continues the policies set forth by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the US, he said.
But Arroyo argued that the Edca “could not rise above” the MDT, which he pointed out makes no reference to bases.
“Nowhere in the MDT in 1951 did the Philippines agree that the US can have military bases in the Philippines, which the 1987 Constitution forbids, without a treaty. Nor did the MDT envision that Philippine military bases could be shared with and jointly used by a foreign power,” he said.
He said the Edca had powers that went beyond what was allowed by the MDT and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Arroyo noted that the VFA provided for “transient and rotational” US troops. The Edca, by contrast, allows the entry of “unlimited” US troops during a 10-year period, as well as the construction of US facilities in the agreed locations, he said.
“The spring can’t rise above its source, as the saying goes,” he added.
“Thus, it’s fallacious for the executive [branch] to say that the Edca is just ‘in furtherance of the MDT and within the context of the VFA,’” he said.
Given that it pertains to “a policy of the highest order,” the Edca should be scrutinized by the Senate and the House of Representatives, Arroyo said.
“The problem of the Philippines is one of security, and therefore decisions thereon require a policy of the highest order. And when it comes to policy of the highest order, it cannot be made by the President alone, but by the political departments of the government, namely, the executive and the legislature,” he said.
“In short, all hands on deck. Nothing can be lost, but much can be gained by this consultation and openness,” Arroyo added.
Arroyo reminded government officials that the Philippines was caught in the middle of a “high-stakes, strategic poker game” between the US and China.
“A wrong move on our part would involve incalculable damage to us, not to China or the US,” he said.
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