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20 years later, senators who rejected US bases hailed anew

Six of the 12 former senators who voted to remove the US bases in the PHL mark the 20th year of its abrogation on Friday. Ralph Joel
The twelve senators who voted against the RP-US Bases Treaty in 1991 were hailed anew on Friday, the 20th anniversary of the controversial vote. In an anniversary ceremony in San Juan City, those honored were former senators Agapito "Butz" Aquino, Joseph Estrada, Teofisto Guingona Jr, Sotero Laurel II, Ernesto Maceda Jr, Orlando Mercado, Aquilino Pimentel Jr, Rene Saguisag, Jovito Salonga, Wigberto Tañada, Victor Ziga, and current Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Out of the 12 senators, named the "Magnificent 12," Enrile is the only one still serving as a lawmaker. Only Salonga and Pimentel did not make it to the anniversary ceremony. Laurel meanwhile is already deceased. The ceremony, dubbed "Kasarinlan Ipaglaban," was organized by the Lorenzo M. Tanada Foundation, Renato Constantino Foundation, and the Jose W. Diokno Foundation. In her opening speech, Ma. Socorro Diokno of the Jose W. Diokno Foundation noted how the 12 lawmakers - despite having different reasons and motivations against the Bases TreaTy - banded together to thumb down the agreement. Diokno noted how some of these lawmakers voted against the measure for fear of the effects of bringing nuclear arms in the country while others feared having a US base could promote prostitution in the area. "Pero iba-iba man ang dahilan, iisa ang kagustuhan nilang taos pusong ipagtanggol ang kasarinlan ng bayan," she said. Aquino, in his speech, said "Ako po ay proud na kasali ako sa nagpatalsik sa mga Amerikano!" The controversial RP-US agreement would have indefinitely extended American control over facilities such as the Subic Naval Base, according to Renato Constantino Jr. of the Constantino Foundation. Also present during the ceremony were former lawmakers Francisco Tatad, Nikki Coseteng, Saturnino Ocampo, Liza Maza, Luzviminda Ilagan, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Teddy Casiño, Neri Colmenares, and Loretta Rosales - current Commission on Human Rights chairperson. Still lopsided Meanwhile, the activist umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) said Philippine-American relations remain lopsided 20 years after the Senate voted to boot out the US bases. In an article posted on its website, BAYAN said the "people's victory" over the US bases in 1991 had been undermined by pacts like the Visiting Forces Agreement. GMA News Online has sought the United States Embassy for comment but has yet to receive a reply as of posting time. Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said the Aquino administration has "uncritically accepted" the "permanent and continuing presence of US troops in Mindanao." Bayan urged lawmakers and the executive branch of government to "defend the hard-won gains of the rejection of the US bases" by terminating the VFA and pushing for the immediate pull-out of US troops in Mindanao. “The Aquino regime should not undermine the people’s gains in removing the US bases. The VFA and the US troops based in Mindanao is a stark reminder that US intervention is alive and well even without the formal bases," Reyes said. Culture of sex and violence Meanwhile, the women's group GABRIELA said, “Twenty years after the US bases treaty was abrogated, the culture of sex and violence that go with the presence of US bases continue to creep in, particularly in areas specified in the Visiting Forces Agreement." In a statement, Lana Linaban, Secretary General GABRIELA, alleged that "more than 800 cases of violence against women and children were filed but not a single case prospered in court." “The American perpetrators went scot-free under the protection of the US government and the connivance of the Philippine government," Linaban claimed. Linaban cited a US cable, published on Wikileaks, stating that then US Ambassador Kristie Kenney and the Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo collaborated to prevent the detention of rapist Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith at the Makati City jail. They also facilitated Smith's transfer to the US Embassy for detention despite the ambiguous provisions in the VFA, Linaban said. “This only proved that the interest of the Philippine government is not really in getting justice for the abuse of Filipinas but rather more in protecting its US masters," she added. - VVP, GMA News