Nine United States Navy vessels that had planned port calls at their former base in Subic Bay, Philippines have reportedly had changes of plans opting to pass on their scheduled rest-and-recreation (R&R) there. According to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority chair Roberto Garcia, the port calls from these ships were “put on hold until further notice”.
As expected, the business community there are furious. Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce (SBFCC) issued a statement on Sunday expressing the disappointment of local businessmen who had been counting on the business servicemen going on shore leave from these vessels would bring.
“This anticipated visit could have meant a better Christmas for the business owners and their employees…. But after the cancellation, one can only imagine the disappointed faces,” the SBFCC said in a statement sent to the Inquirer on Sunday.
Anti-American sentiments erupted all over the Philippines and amongst Filipino expat communities in the United States two weeks ago following the killing of Filipino transgender Jeffrey Laude allegedly by US Marine Pfc Joseph Scott Pemberton. Various left-leaning groups led by “women’s issues” group GABRIELA had joined forces with militant elements in the gay community to condemn the incident as a hate crime and one that could be directly attributed to the increased presence of American forces in the Philippines. They have called for the “abrogation” of the Visting Forces Agreement (VFA) which governs this presence citing its ill-effects on the national insecurity surrounding their “sovereignty” long suffered by Filipinos since the US granted the Philippines independence in 1946.
Many Filipino politicians have since joined in on the “outrage” bandwagon announcing intentions to “review” the VFA. Leading the charge is Philippine Senator Miriam Santiago who reportedly called the VFA “a failure” and pointed out that the agreement, signed by Washington and Manila in 1998, “was signed without the concurrence of the Senate”. Santiago lamented that since the signing of the agreement, the Philippine military had “not modernized sufficiently.” Earlier than that, a bloc of left-leaning polticians in the Philippines’ House of Representatives filed a “joint resolution” calling for the termination of the VFA. The authors of Joint Resolution no. 17 are the usual suspects…
Joint resolution no. 17 called for “immediately abrogating” the 15-year-old VFA and urged Pres. Aquino “to send a notice of termination” to the US government. It was filed by Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Javier Colmenares, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio and Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon.
Observers have noted how the militancy and outrage exhibited by supposedly “progressive” activists surrounding this incident had been baldly disproportionate to the amount of “activism” they exhibit over far more statistically significant crimes that grip the Philippines. There have also been many victims of violent crime who were homosexuals and transgenders. The fact that the suspected perpetrator of Laude’s killing is an American servicemen seems to have played a significant role in attracting this level of attention.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of criminal cases deemed to be at the same level of gravity and hienousness are currently tangled up in the notorious red tape that characterises the Philippines’ infamously snail-paced criminal justice system. Families of victims who could afford it and have the “right” connections often spend millions to expedite their cases. Unfortunitely for the majority of Filipinos, justice is more a luxury than a human right and it often takes a case that aligns with the political agenda of mainstream politicians and militant groups alike to arouse any semblance of “indignation” and media attention.
Indeed, Filipinos’ renowned colonial mentality — a cultural trait that predisposes them to favour, shower with extra attention, and afford special treatment to people of European descent — is alive and well even after almost 70 years of national “independence”. In the case of the Laude killing, all-American jarhead Pemberton conveniently provides a nice fair-skinned fresh-faced effigy to the “evil America” doctrine of these noisy political relics of the Cold War in the Philippines.
Meanwhile the Philippines hobbles along in mediocrity, and the “pride” and “self-determination” promised by the cabal of “nationalistic” Philippine senators who booted out American forces in 1991 continues to elude the country. Perhaps it is really a crisis of priorities that the Philippines suffers and not much the crisis of economy and politics that the “experts” say is the real issue underlying the Philippines’ chronic failure to prosper.
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