Post-Tubbataha: Lawyer pushes for VFA renegotiation
MANILA, Philippines - Following the damage caused by a US ship to the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, a lawyer asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday, February 12 to order the Department of Foreign Affairs to renegotiate an agreement between the Philippines and the United states on military exercises.
Harry Roque, who questioned the constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement in 2009, filed a motion asking the SC to require the government to renegotiate for a "more equitable and just Visiting Forces Agreement," to abolish it, or to come up with an "appropriate agreement" on detention facilities as ordered in an SC decision in the case Nicolas v. Romulo.
Roque said the SC, in its 2009 decision on the VFA case, upheld the constitutionality of the 1998 VFA but not the 2006 agreeements between then DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo and Kristie Kenney covering Sec.10 or Article V, which specified that accused US military members are to be detained in the US Embassy.
The SC ordered the renegotiation of the said agreement, but Roque said this has yet to be carried out.
"The blatant disregard for the Philippine authority and the disrespect shown to the rangers of Tubbataha Reef National Park by the crew of the USS Guardian show that the VFA is unable to ensure that Philippine authority will be respected by forces," the motion said.
Roque, who filed the motion on behalf of Jovito Salonga - one of the petitioners in the VFA case - added that the crew involved was already brought back to Sasebo, Japan, their homeport. "It remains to be seen whether the crew of the USS Guardian will ever be brought under Philippine jurisdiction again."
He said that government should renegotiate the VFA to make sure it will address the criminal liability of the US forces under Philippine law. - Rappler.com