MIRIAM: US TROOPS IN COMBAT UNDER VFA
“My reference is Col. David Maxwell, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines ,” Santiago said.
“By his own admission, Col. Maxwell is using the Task Force to engage in battle in Mindanao in the US war against terrorism, which includes the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiyah,” Santiago said.
She said that although RP and US authorities claim that US troops in Mindanao are only engaging in so-called military exercises, this term is not used in the VFA itself.
“The VFA never uses the term ‘military exercises.’ Instead, it uses the word ‘activities.’ This is the loophole in the VFA,” she said.
She said that the Task Force deploys US forces in unconventional warfare and combat operations, and Maxwell himself admitted in a US interview that he is operating ‘under the guise of an exercise.’
Santiago said she suspects that there are “small-scale military bases” in Zamboanga City and in Sulu.
Santiago also criticized the Supreme Court decision in the 2009 case of Nicolas v Romulo.
“In Nicolas, the Court ruled that the US has complied with the Philippine constitutional requirement that the VFA should be recognized as a treaty by the US . I respectfully disagree,” she said.
Santiago, last year’s Philippine nominee to the International Court of Justice, said that under the US Constitution, a treaty is an international agreement which the US President makes “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.”
“The US Senate never consented to the VFA. In US law, it is not a treaty but an executive agreement. Therefore, it violates the RP constitutional requirement that foreign military troops will be allowed in the Philippines only under a treaty recognized as a treaty by the US ,” she said.
Santiago said that the use of the word “visiting” in the VFA is misleading, because the US troops are still in the Philippines after 12 years.
“If the US wants to use Philippine territory in its alleged war on terror, they will have to negotiate a treaty with the RP. In the meantime, in my humble view, the presence of US troops in Mindanao, and even worse, their participation in combat operations, are illegal,” she said.