Send in the SCRAMDT

By Mauro Gia Samonte January 27, 2019

The minute Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced his plan to review the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States, one sector warned of opening a “Pandora’s Box.” Surely there are evils to come flying out of that box once opened, but those precisely are the ones long concealed since the treaty was concluded in 1951, and letting those abominations out now will amount to granting the full measure of Philippine sovereignty.

It will mean an end to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), spawned out of the womb of the MDT to restore to US troops the privilege of roaming freely around the country in the pretext of joint war exercises, and to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), restoring in turn the American military rights to basing, which were killed by the Senate Magnificent 12 back in 1991, when the dozen approved the resolution rejecting the Senate bill lobbied by former President Corazon Aquino to extend the Military Bases Agreement (MBA) of 1947.

I have advanced my say on the issue substantially in my past columns, so that I exercise restraint in further belaboring the subject. But there have been reactions to my MDT pieces, which I feel obliged to give space to this time.

So, for one, send in the “SCRAMDT.”

The acronym stands for Scrap MDT. As explained in its position paper, the group came about as a consequence of an emergency meeting called by former Ambassador
Alberto Encomienda in order to discuss the Lorenzana plan to review the MDT. The meeting reached a consensus among the partakers that the treaty was an abomination to the country as a sovereign state and must be scrapped now. Days later, several participants in that meeting realized that although there was that consensus, none whatsoever was agreed on in matters of how the scrapping of the treaty was to be done.

Everyone was clear on the fact that all it needed was for President Rodrigo Duterte to notify US President Donald Trump that the Philippines was scrapping the treaty, and presto (that is, after a year) the MDT would be deemed automatically ended.

How to get the Digong sending such notice to Trump appeared to be the only obstacle that needed to be hurdled. In a subsequent meeting in an inauspicious venue inside the University of the Philippines campus, the group finally agreed on launching a movement zeroing in on the battle cry: Scram MDT.

For its initial salvo, the group adopted a paper prepared by the Phil-BRICS Strategic Studies specifically made to crystallize the manifold issues surrounding the MDT, and to serve as platform for calls to action by any and all groups and sectors desiring to end the treaty now.

The paper is too long to fit into a 1,000-word column, but let’s see how we sort out its salient points for everyone’s guidance, to wit:

“The 1951 RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) was proposed and signed in the assumption that ‘a more comprehensive system of regional security in the Pacific area’ was to be drawn up to face a common regional security concern.

“The need for any regional security organization never materialized as economic and peace developments and progress overcame the major regional security concerns. The MDT lapsed into practical oblivion as the Philippines evolved its own regional association with its neighboring countries without involvement of any powers extraneous to the region.

“The lapse of the MDT has been ‘kept out of sight’ because the regional collective security concerns have already been kept out of mind, yet the MDT has been resuscitated opportunistically by remnants of the old ‘Cold War’ cabal to re-start a creeping return of the forces of the hegemon of the old imperialist, colonialist and ‘Cold War’ historical era.

“The creeping restoration of the unipolar ‘Cold War’ elements and the military assets of the Western hegemon that seeks a return must mobilize Filipino patriots and nationalists to alert the nation to this perilous threat to the era of peace and prosperity promised by the emerging Asian Century of the 21st century era of the Multi-Polar World led by Asian nations and by Asean specifically.

“This peril to peace and prosperity Asean and Asia are building assumes even greater proportions after the United States of America announced its ‘Pivot to Asia’ and
repositioning of 60% of its military assets to Asia, which can have no other consequence than to raise tension and the threat of conflicts in the region which has otherwise attained unprecedented tranquility and harmony through regional dialogues and associations.”

The SCRAMDT specifically adopts the Phil-BRICS position that the MDT is an affront to the Philippine Constitution (1987), which provides, Article 18, thus: “Section 25.
After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and United States of America concerning military bases, foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.”

The paper goes on to elaborate that the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, ratified in a nationwide plebiscite on Feb. 8,1987, effectively put an end to any and all military cooperation via American military presence in the Philippines under the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951.

From the constitutional standpoint alone, the MDT should have been abrogated as early as the Cory administration. She had all of four years to do it; she didn’t. Then down the line, from the Fidel V. Ramos administration, to President Joseph Ejercito Estrada’s, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s and Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd, no President seemed to have had the balls (let alone Gloria, of course) to stand up to America.

Question now, has President Duterte got them — balls, I mean? Otherwise, send in the SCRAMDT.

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