Duterte’s hollow stance against VFA

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte recently repeated his rants against the US government. Last month, he announcd that he will push for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). He said that he will carry this out within a month if the US fails to reverse the cancellation of his rabid henchman, now senator, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa.

He said that he is not joking. Considering the context and his previous rants against the US, however, it can be seen that Duterte is not at all serious. His stance on the termination of VFA is hollow. He is posturing not to advance the national sovereignty of the Philippines, but his selfish political interests.

This posturing is no different from the bogus nationalism of Marcos who in the 1970s threatened to abrogate the Military Bases Agreement. The agreement, signed in 1946, gave the US the privilege to erect military bases in more than 50,000 hectares of land in Clark, Subic and many other areas. Marcos’ posturing, however, just ended up in a bargain for payment of higher land rent by the US and the provision of more military aid to support his martial law.

Following this Marcosian approach, Duterte is using the concept of national sovereignty as an embellishment to conceal his personal interests. Firstly, in connection with his stance to “align with China and Russia,” Duterte is using his anti-VFA antics to push the US to provide more and new weapons, helicopters, bombs, and other matériel for the AFP’s brutal war of suppression against the Filipino masses, and for the bogus “war on drugs.” With this, he can win the support of pro-US AFP officials. Secondly, he is using this as a card to improve his worth and hinder some US-based groups from pressuring him along with his political rivals.

If Duterte really has even just a whiff of nationalism, he should have since junked the VFA, ordered the pull-out of American troops and dismantled their military facilities in the Philippines. Duterte turns a blind eye to what the Ame­ricans are doing in Fort Magsay­say, Clark, Subic, Villamor Air Base, Mactan Air Base, Lumbia Air­­port, Camp Ranao, Camp Bau­tista, Carlito Cunanan Naval Station, Camp Navarro and other places. These camps serve as centers for their intervention. These are where they spy, launch drones, and train Filipino soldiers for their interference in the country’s internal affairs under the guise of “counter-terrorism.”

For the Filipino people who are aspiring for genuine freedom from US neocolonial domination, Duter­te’s posturing against the VFA will only result in nothing. Time will pass and this will only be forgotten like his past declaration to end the Balikatan “war exercises” and abrogate the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The actual result of his anti-VFA stance will depend on how he will play this card. It may either result in a mere “review,” a new negotiation or a new agreement; or the US may also simply reward Duterte (including his request for the cancellation of Bato’s visa). However, this may also backfire at him especially if the US does not immediately compromise and if his antics will go too far as this will embolden some AFP officials, in connivance with US forces and local oppositionists, to oust him from power. What is certain is that Duterte’s stance neither changes nor will change the US’ dominion over the country’s politics.

The Filipino people have long been clamoring for the abrogation of the VFA, and other unequal militar treaties between the US and the Philippines. Among these are the Mutual Defense Treaty and the EDCA which were signed in 1951 and 2014, respectively.

All these agreements give the US military the power and right to be in the Philippines and violate its sovereignty. These agreements are an affront to the national integrity of Filipinos.

Under the VFA, in particular, American troops are allowed to freely enter and exit the country. Contrary to the reactionary Philippine constitution, their vehicles cannot even be inspected for carrying nuclear weapons into the country. American troops who commit crimes are immediately given protection by the US government and, if not for public clamor and protests, are absolved of their crimes.

These agreements, and the dominion of foreign capitalists and banks in the local economy, are the starkest manifestations of neocolonial oppression in the Philippines. Foreign control over the economy and military, and the connivance of some traitors with foreign imperialists are the primary factors why the country remains backward, and why the Filipino people are impoverished while oligarchs, landlords, and big corrupt bureaucrats get richer and richer everyday.

The Filipino people must amplify their clamor for the abrogation of the VFA and all other unequal military treaties. All freedom-loving people must hold the Duterte regime accountable for selling out Philippine sovereignty .