DFA chief Del Rosario admits VFA not perfect
MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario admitted Thursday that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States (US) was “an imperfect agreement.”
“It’s not a perfect agreement. It’s an imperfect agreement but given that, it’s not plausible for us to amend at this time,” Del Rosario said in an interview on ANC with Karen Davila.
“We need to abrogate and if we abrogate, it interrupts the benefit of the mutual defense treaty with regards to joint exercise between [Philippine and US] armed forces. It [would have] consequences [on] the modernization, the joint training, the inter-operability,” he said.
The VFA has been criticized for being biased in favor of the US following the alleged murder of a Filipino transgender woman in Olongapo City by a US Marine last October 11, 2014.
The primary suspect of the killing, Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, is being held in a joint US-Philippines detention facility inside Camp Aguinaldo but remains under the custody of the US military.
The family of the slain transgender, Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, have repeatedly demanded to see Pemberton and for him to be transferred to the full custody of Philippine authorities.
DFA has maintained that the custody of an accused US personnel rests immediately with the US military, as stated in the VFA.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, the chairperson of the Senate Foreign Affairs committee, has called the VFA a “failure” because it keeps the unequal relationship between the Philippines and the US.
“The VFA is a historic document of inequity between a former colonizer and its former colony, which some global political analysts describe as a ‘failing state.’ The Philippines is failing because it has never grown up,” Santiago said in her remarks during a hearing to review the VFA.
“Never in the annals of modern political history has a country been so manipulated to serve the interest of another, and taught to be so ironically grateful for such an inequitable relationship,” she said.
Santiago and Akbayan Representative Walden Bello have filed a joint resolution to terminate the VFA citing the case of Laude as well as several other previous alleged violations of Philippine laws such as the dumping of sewage waste in Philippine waters by a US military contractor and the grounding of a US navy ship on the Tubbataha reefs.