We speculate often about the Macapagal-Arroyo-Defensor-Santiago alliance, about what keeps two strong-willed women loyal to each other in the zero-sum game that is Philippine politics. (The role of the senator’s husband, who is currently presidential adviser for revenue enhancement, is an unchanging focus of the speculation.)
We can expect the speculative fever to spike, again, after Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago reached an uncomfortable conclusion today about the new security arrangement the Philippines and the United States have just entered into (uncomfortable, that is, to Malacanang).
But Santiago said the arrangement, which began from exchange of diplomatic notes and entered into force on April 12, is not covered by the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of 1951 and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) of 1999.
“The exchange of notes does not merely implement the VFA, but seems to be an indirect attempt to make the VFA applicable to US military personnel participating in military exercises in the Philippines for a wide variety of purposes other than those allowed by the Mutual Defense Treaty,” she said.
The MDT calls for cooperation in battling external security threats in any of the countries, while the VFA allows US forces to join large-scale military exercises in the Philippines.
At the same time, Santiago said the SEB, composed of American and Philippine military and civilian officials, “could be used by the US to participate in decision-making mechanisms of the Philippine government.”
This, emphatically, cannot be what the Palace had in mind. A ratification by the recalcitrant Senate? But — it must be said, and I say it ungrudgingly — Miriam has done right in calling attention to the legal issue.