Three years after EDCA signing: Duterte should scrap EDCA, walk the talk on PH sovereignty

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - "We call on Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to walk the talk and decisively terminate one-sided military agreements with the United States government, such as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). If this administration is serious in asserting Philippine sovereignty against the US, it should start by doing away with treaties and deals that trample on the nation’s sovereignty. We also challenge Duterte to veer away from neoliberal policies being pushed by the US – policies that have caused widespread and systematic poverty in the country, allowing big corporations to gain profits at the expense of the people’s welfare,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, in a rally led by the International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) outside the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, California, US, to protest the implementation of EDCA for the past three years. 

Palabay is currently on a speaking tour on peace and human rights issues in cities across the U.S. including New York City, Jersey City, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, and Atlanta. 

Unlike past regimes, Duterte has openly criticized the US, and even threatened to scrap EDCA in several of his pronouncements. “Unfortunately, US lapdogs among military officials such as DND chief Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana continue to push for its implementation,” said Palabay.

“The EDCA, just like the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement allows the US to use the country for its own military objectives,” Palabay explained. 

With EDCA’s implementation, construction of facilities at the Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Bautista Airbase in Palawan, one in Cagayan de Oro, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, and the Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu is underway. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of EDCA on January 12, 2016, despite constitutional questions raised against the agreement.

“Such agreements allow US troops in the country without being subjected to PH laws, allowing them to commit rights abuses with impunity. Such a brazen act of disregard against our sovereignty has caused outrage from the Filipino people, with no less than the government as a willing accomplice to the blatant violation of our own laws and our own people,” added Palabay.

Palabay cited the killing of Filipino transgender, Jennifer Laude, by US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton on October 11, 2014. He was eventually found guilty of homicide and sentenced to 6 to 12 years of imprisonment. Though the court ordered him detained at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, he will be detained at the AFP custodial center instead. Palabay said “this incident shows the special treatment accorded to US troops, even after they have been proven to commit heinous crimes against Filipinos.”

“EDCA remains a one-sided deal which only benefits the Unites States government. Moreover, it complements US-driven counter-insurgency programs in the Philippines, through which communities and progressive organizations have been targetted," Palabay concluded.