Activists denounce ‘secrecy’ in Philippines-Australia defense pact

Jun. 01, 2007

MANILA, Philippines — The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today assailed the allegedly secrecy employed by the Arroyo government in entering into a Status Forces Agreement with Australia.

The Philippine government has entered into an agreement with a foreign government with no one else knowing the details. The contents of the SOFA have been deliberately hidden from the public so as to avoid scrutiny and protest. The signing is treasonous because it allows foreign intervention in our country, said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes Jr.

Are we just supposed to take the word of the Arroyo administration that it has learned from the lessons of the US Visiting Forces Agreement, without even seeing the contents of this new agreement? That is simply unacceptable, Reyes added.

Bayan believes that the SOFA still violates the Philippines sovereignty by allowing the entry of foreign troops and their possible intervention in domestic affairs in the name of the war on terror.

The SOFA was secured because Australia wants to wage its own war against terror in the Philippines. No matter what sugar-coating the Arroyo and Howard governments use, the goal of the agreement is to allow foreign military intervention in the name of the war on terror. Howard it itching to go after so-called terrorists, Reyes said.

Not even the promise of the modernization of the AFP can make the SOFA acceptable. The same promise was made by the US when they sought a VFA yet the AFP remained backward and unprofessional. What makes Australia any different? Reyes added.

Reyes said that they provisions on custody and jurisdiction should have been made public even before the government entered into the agreement. Even the media have not received copies of the SOFA.

The US VFA became controversial because of custody issues over a US Marine convicted of rape.

Our experiences with the RP-US VFA showed one-sidedness and unequal relations especially on the issue of criminal jurisdiction. The Arroyo government has not assuaged fears that the SOFA would be any different form the VFA. We suspect many loopholes since foreign governments often refuse to surrender criminal jurisdiction over their own troops, Reyes said.

“The new Philippine Senate must reject this agreement and not make the same mistake as with the approval of the RP-US VFA,” Reyes said.

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