National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin
Political Science sophomore Billy Chang rose from his seat while putting on his back pack and thanking me for the hour-long tête-à-tête we had shared. The young Chinese national strode out of the burger restaurant to catch his class, happily looking forward to sharing with his teacher and classmates some ideas he had just acquired. I had of course made him promise not to identify me as the source of those ideas, and to describe them as mere opinions from a lawyer. Hereunder is a discussion of those opinions.
I find it a bit unfortunate, though not unexpected, that Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has assailed the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) as having been forged in “bad faith” by and between US Pres. Barack Obama and PH Pres. BS Aquino lll. Well, make no mistake about this: The lady who is the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is among the sharpest lawyers in the upper chamber, but she’s still human, given as she is to AGD (attention getting device) antics at moments least expected. With all due respect, I differ from her opinion for the following reasons.
1) The two EDCA signatories, National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, were no ornery “subalterns”, or subordinates who were unclothed with authority as suggested by MDS, but “alter egos” (other selves) who had been authorized by their respective presidents to act on the document in their behalf;
2) A sensitive examination of the two presidents’ demeanor, their words and manner of speaking and body language, particularly Obama’s, demonstrates a level of diplomacy that is associated with good faith; and
3) In the absence of any palpable indicia of bad faith — and there appears to be none in the premises — the universal principle of “presumption of good faith” shall prevail.
EDCA is an agreement that partakes of the nature of a treaty and, as such, should have been brought to the senate for approval, consistent with the upper house’s constitutional role in treaty making. It isn’t too late, and there should be no problem in that regard because a comfortable majority of the senators are P-Noy’s allies. Until then, EDCA remains open to question before the Supreme Court, although I believe the treaty will ultimately hold sway under its scrutiny.
And as for other EDCA-related issues that have loomed as grounds for attacking the agreement as unconstitutional, the high tribunal will hopefully see those anti-EDCA petitions as exercises in futility, given our people’s widespread pro-American culture and an exigent imperative for a counterbalance against saber-rattling China. The Court may well take judicial notice of our people’s ingrained stars-and-stripes second nature, and recognize it as its wellspring of vitality and direction in the discharge of its office. After all, the judiciary is ordained to serve, like the rest of government, the interests of its creator: the sovereign citizens.
With respect to those Maoists and other Communist-leaning militants who made a lot of infernal racket during Obama’s two-day-one-night state visit, my comment on Billy’s worry is: these Reds mouth nationalism and patriotism, but power is all they want. There is no way they can win the hearts and minds of nearly a hundred million compatriots who oppose them. Let us recall that when Martial Law enforcers hunted them down, many fled the country for Uncle Sam’s protection. During Obama’s state visit, they burned effigies of Uncle Sam. In fact, they have never denounced China’s bullying tactics!! AGD syndrome?!
Incidentally, many seriously question the quality of the United States’ commitment to defend the Philippines under the terms of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, as modified by EDCA. In this respect, I hold the view that because at that time we had not yet officially defined our West Philippine Sea territory, much less declared an adverse claim to it against the whole world, the “vagueness” of Obama’s commitment to lend us military support in case of external aggression is understandable.
However, this vagueness shouldn’t discourage us from believing that the black US President, whose great rhetoric twice brought him to the White House, used the same verbal finesse not to hoodwink us but to pledge — in the most diplomatic manner possible — America’s willingness to shed her blood in defense of her Filipino brothers in times of war.
Let Mr. Barack Obama’s ironclad pledge continue to peal in the air, in which are couched his delicate reassurances — “…Our goal is not to conquer China; our goal is not to contain China…(but) to make sure that international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of maritime disputes. We don’t go around sending ships and threatening folks.”
If “actions speak louder than words”, diplomacy may again prove more forceful than bullets.
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