September 8, 2009
Groups opposed to the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement today filed a Supplemental Motion for Consideration in relation to a petition pending before the Supreme Court that seeks to declare the agreement unconstitutional.
In their supplemental motion, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), Gabriela and Bayan Muna and other cause-oriented groups asked the Supreme Court to allow “the reception of evidence pertaining to the permanent and continuous presence of U.S. troops and their involvement in combat operations in the Southern Philippines by a justice of the Court of Appeals as designated by the SC”. The groups are also seeking the “inspection of the camps, facilities and places mentioned in the affidavit of Mary Nancy P. Gadian where the U.S. troops have maintained a permanent and continuous presence since 2002”. Finally, the groups asked the SC to call for oral arguments on the matters covered in the motion.
The supplemental motion comes in the wake of an affidavit executed by former Navy Lt. Senior Grade Nancy Gadian on the permanent and continuing presence of US troops. In her affidavit, Gadian describes the permanent and temporary structures set up by the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines since 2002 in Mindanao. She also claims that US troops are embedded in AFP combat units and thus are engaged in actual combat.
Bayan et al are represented by their counsels Dean Pacifico Agabin and Atty. Evalyn Ursua, formerly the counsel of Subic rape victim “Nicole”. The petitions vs the VFA have been consolidated and include the petition filed by former senator Jovito Salonga and Wigberto Tanada and an earlier petition by Subic rape victim “Nicole”.
The supplemental motion also mentions the announcement of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the JSOTF-P stationed in Mindanao will stay in the country indefinitely. The petitioners said that this was an admission of the permanent and continuous presence of US forces in the country made possible by the vague provisions of the VFA.
The group also cited the US Army Field Manual in its discussion of combat operations where combat intelligence and surveillance are considered part of the “Battlefield Operating System” of US forces. The US forces in Mindanao have admitted to providing support for the AFP in the capture and neutralization of so-called “high-value targets”.
“With the Executive refusing to heed the call to review and terminate the VFA, we hope that the Judiciary can be the one to rectify the serious wrongs committed in the 10 years the agreement has been in effect. Even the Chair of the Senate Foreign relations committee has realized these serious violations of the Constitution. We hope the High Court takes note of the of the statements of Gates and the affidavit of Gadian. These are very substantial developments in the case vs the VFA,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. ###