Despite its elation over Pia Wurtzbach’s victory at the Miss Universe pageant, Gabriela party-list urged the actress and model to learn more about the history of the Philippines’ relationship with the United States in light of her controversial answer to a question about US military presence in the country.
In a statement, Gabriela party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus hailed Wurtzbach for raising awareness on HIV-AIDS during the second round of the pageant’s question and answer portion but expressed hope that her favorable stand on the return of US bases to the country will still change.
“We commend her for raising the issue of HIV-AIDS as one problem that needs to be addressed globally. However, we view that her position in favor of US military presence in the country contradicts her concern for humanity. We hope she will have a change of mind and heart on this issue by learning the history of our nation under US colonial rule,” De Jesus said.
The lawmaker appears to be bothered by the 26-year-old beauty queen’s response in the first question-and-answer portion of the Miss Universe pageant, in which the top five finalists were asked for their opinion on a pressing social issue affecting their respective countries.
To the question on US military presence in the Philippines, Wurtzbach replied: “I think the Philippines and the US have a good relationship with each other.”
She noted that the Philippines was once colonized by the US and that the country is "very welcoming" to Americans.
"I don't see any problem with that," Wurtzbach said.
De Jesus said Wurtzbach should look into the October 2014 killing of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, as well as “other criminal abuses” supposedly committed by the US military in the Philippines and elsewhere so she could be a “powerful voice” in seeking justice for the victims of America’s exploits.
'She should be briefed by Gabriela'
Following Wurtzbach’s response, former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño took to Twitter while the pageant was ongoing to show his disapproval of the Filipina beauty queen’s stand on the issue.
“She could have at least acknowledged that there are problems that have to be addressed re. US bases in PH,” he tweeted.
“Pag uwi ni Pia she should be briefed by Gabriela on the issue of US troops in PH to help her get a better perspective,” the former lawmaker added.
In spite of Wurtzbach’s answer, Casiño still held out hope that the Philippines would take home the Miss Universe crown.
I don't agree with Pia's opinion but what the heck, I hope she wins #MissUniverse2015!!!!!” he said on Twitter.
Question 'wasn't fair'
For his part, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. believes the question asked of Wurtzbach “wasn’t a fair one” because it was framed to elicit a favorable response from the contestant, considering that she was under a lot of pressure.
“Saying 'NO' to US troops, in front of a predominantly American crowd, would likely harm her chances of winning. Perhaps she wasn’t prepared to take that risk,” the activist leader wrote on his blog.
While Reyes said it would have been “awesome” had Wurtzbach expressed opposition to the return of US bases in the country, he said the reason for her response was obvious.
“She went with the 'safe' and 'popular' answer, at least for the home crowd and the organizers which included Donald Trump,” he said.
Following Wurtzbach’s victory, Reyes said he is hopeful that the Filipina beauty queen “would keep an open mind” about dissenting opinions on the issue of American bases.
“Our history of American colonization was brutal and nothing to be proud of. I hope she would find time in the future to sit down with the victims of abuses by US troops, many of whom are women,” he said.
Santiago: We need to talk
On Twitter, presidential candidate and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago expressed her desire to talk to Wurtzbach upon the beauty queen’s return to the country, ostensibly due to her position on US military presence in the Philippines.
“Congratulations, @piawurtzbach! You are regal. But from what I've heard, we need to talk. See you! #MissUniverse2015,” the senator tweeted.
Last year, Santiago filed a joint resolution with then-Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello for the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States.
Gabriela party-list, meanwhile, is one of the petitioners contesting the legality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the two countries.
— Xianne Arcangel/BM, GMA News