Protest greets Kerry visit

PROGRESSIVE groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) took to the streets of Manila last July 27 to protest United States Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the Philippines.

Kerry is in the Philippines to dialogue with president Rodrigo Duterte on Philippine international relations, specifically on its ongoing dispute with China over the South China Sea.

The activists, however, said that Kerry’s visit is an attempt to make Duterte dependent on the US as his predecessors.

“Hindi po sila [US] nandidito para i-angat ang ating kalagayan. Nandidito sila para siguraduhin na tayo ay magiging palaasa sa kanilang itinatakda,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said. (Kerry isn’t here for our benefit. He is here to make sure that we remain dependent to their policies.)

The protest rally was triggered by the Supreme Court ruling last July 25 that affirmed the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the United States and Benigno Aquino governments.

Aquino justified the agreement as a way to “strengthen ties between both nations.”

The activists pointed out that EDCA is disadvantageous to the Philippines because of increased US military presence.

The EDCA allows US troops to use Philippine installations such as military camps for free and for an undetermined length of time.

The protesters wanted to march all the way to the US embassy but were blocked by the police.

The progressives hope that Duterte will maintain his independence from foreign influence, however.

“Naniniwala tayo na ang kasalukuyang pangulo ng Pilipinas ay hindi basta-basta papayag na siya ay didiktahan ng kung sino pang malalaking kapangyarihan, China man o US,” Reyes said. (We believe that our current president will not just accept being pushed around by whatever foreign power, be it China or US.)

Kabataan Party-list representative Sarah Elago, for her part, said Duterte has the power to decide the fate of the executive agreement.

“It would be easy for the administration to not only review but also eventually abrogate EDCA since the Supreme Court ruled that it is an executive agreement. While we do not subscribe to that view, having EDCA as an executive agreement empowers the President to immediately scrap the deal,” she said.

“President Duterte should make good on his promise to assert Philippine independence, and part of that is to review lopsided deals including the VFA and the Mutual Defense Treaty. This is the moment for the Executive department to finally act with a firm sense of nationalism, to rise to the moment and decided to finally break the shackles of US subservience,” Elago said.

Reyes, meanwhile, stressed the importance of keeping foreign military forces out of the country.

“Hanggang may dayuhang tropang nakabase sa ating bansa, walang magiging tunay na malaya,” Reyes sid. (As long as there are foreign troops in our country, nobody will be truly free.)

“Ipanawagan natin sa kanya [Duterte] na… ‘yang EDCA, mayroon na siyang responsibilidad na iyan ay repasuhin, pag-aralan, at ibasura,” he said. (Let us let Duterte know that he now has a responsibility to review and scrap EDCA.) # (By Abril Layad B. Ayroso)