Are our interests aligned with America?

Are our interests aligned with America? Featured

YES and no! This is such a complex matter that has polarized our country from the time we were passed on to the Gringos from our Spanish colonizers. First, a lesson in history.

We were nothing more than war booty to the conquerors. Historically, we had just begun our revolution against Spain on Aug. 24, 1896 when we were caught in the middle of the Spanish-American war. On April 21, 1898, America declared war against Spain — America's first overseas conflict. Cuba and the Philippines were then the colonies of Spain. Although there was no explicit agreement of alliance, this was the first brief implicit alignment of US-Philippine interest: defeating Spain. Manila fell to the Americans in a bloodless "moro-moro" battle, lasting hours. United States forces held Manila, but the Filipino revolutionaries controlled the rest of the country. The 1898 Treaty of Paris between America and Spain — without our participation — transferred sovereignty from Spain to America. We were sold out!

The US rejected Filipino claims of independence. We were had! Thus, in February 1899, the Philippine-American war erupted. Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo formed the Philippine Republic that was promptly ignored by America. Thus, the first guerrilla warfare ensued in November 1899. After the surrender of Gen. Miguel Malvar, America declared Filipino guerrillas to be mere bandits. The Philippine revolution/insurgency ended. Thus began a rape which turned into a love story!


America's first colony in Asia

From then on, our interests aligned completely with America, when we were promised complete independence by virtue of the Commonwealth that America established for us in 1934, under the Tydings-McDuffie Act. This was a period where we, little brown brothers, had to learn self-governance for later independence. And we did learn well — as America's first colony in Asia. We imbibed their culture, with the now famous dictum "...300 years in the convent, and 100 years in Hollywood..." The Thomasites came to educate us, and we learned English, our second language. But more importantly, the educated, cognoscenti and the elite among us learned to think in English, and still do. Within the interim, we were America's experiment in governance, inculcating democracy, republicanism and the rule of law, all alien and contradictory at first to our datu/sultan/patron culture. But we were fast learners. Although there were flaws in the application, we had a mongrelized version of government format. Whereas America had a presidential-federal form, we had the more American-controllable and centralized presidential unitary format (please refer to"Unitary-presidential and alternatives," The Manila Times, March 15, 2023).

World War 2

As a hard lesson in geopolitics, WW2 was a classic case in alliances and alignments of interests. Prior to WW2, a series of moves and counter-moves for Asian hegemony between the West and East arose. Expansionist Japan emerged ascendant, invading Manchuria and China in 1937. Driven perhaps by the threat of America, Japan had the notion to displace this encroaching power in the Pacific. Japan, the country of the samurai with a long history of warfare and violence coated by the traditional rituals of Bushido, attacked US forces at Pearl Harbor. Although Juan de la Cruz had no direct say in it, he had to suffer the consequences of our pact with America. Since United States forces were stationed in the Philippines, we became vulnerable.

The briefest of debate in those days during the rise of Japan was centered on whether Philippine interests were aligned with that of America. We were to have our independence from US tutelage in 1945. The obvious answer is, we didn't have a choice.

Perhaps these battles fought against Japan forged special relations with Mother America. With a combined force of 76,000 Filipino and American soldiers — all under the American flag — this surrender was a devastating defeat for America's first land battle, ever. The subsequent "Bataan Death March" with only a handful of survivors burned into Fil-American consciousness the camaraderie and brotherhood-in-arms between the two races. Together with the battle for the liberation of Manila where hundreds of thousands of Filipino civilians perished, and the capital totally devastated. American and Filipino blood flowed freely — this bond of equals came into its own.

Misaligned interest post-WW2

In this war, 250,000 Filipinos fought with America and after the withdrawal of US forces in 1942, Filipino guerrillas carried on the resistance. It will be noted that American President Roosevelt put all military forces in the Philippines under US control in 1941 — thus the revered US Gen. Douglas McArthur became the only Field Marshal in the history of the Philippine armed forces. And his ringing promise — "I shall return" — kept the Filipinos' faith with America.

But after the war in 1946, the US Congress passed the Rescission Act, stripping recognition from Filipino veterans, explicitly barring "rights, privileges or benefits" to most veterans and guerrillas who fought side by side with America. Then we were granted our independence!

Mendicants never learn. After we abrogated the 1947 Military Bases Agreement with America in 1991, subsequent administrations skirted the constitutional ban on foreign bases and signed the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) within the ambit of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the US. This treaty under the 1935 Commonwealth Constitution was ratified by both the Philippines Senate and US Senate. The 1998 VFA under the 1987 Constitution was ratified only by the Philippine Senate, not the US Senate. Go figure! Today we have the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that allows US troop rotations, building of and operation of facilities in the Philippine bases.

As explained in my past columns, these are forward staging areas for American war materiel, fuel depots and ammunition dumps for the use of their planes and ships — and even nuclear devices in the event of conflict with China ("The winds of war," TMT, March 29, 2023).

Grudgingly, we must ally with US

Now with the winds of war blowing in our direction, powerless to defend ourselves by our lonesome, with these EDCA bases targeted in a shooting war with China; can we arrogantly insist that we are an independent nation, with our foreign policy of "friends to all and enemies to none"?

History is littered with the carcasses of the arrogant and the naïve! Countries are attacked and swallowed by dominant states and are made cannon fodder. These are the fates of declared "neutral countries." The German Wehrmacht ran roughshod over Scandinavia and Belgium in WW2. Russia's rape of Ukraine is ongoing. But those officially allied to the NATO countries survive — Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, among others, the reason Finland and Sweden are now pleading for alliance with NATO!

We have always been captives of America. This collective Stockholm syndrome developed a psychological bond with our captors, hostage to their wiles and promises from the very beginning.

And where do we go from here? Because of the stupidity of our past political leadership verging on the criminal we have not made preparations to defend ourselves and are left with no alternatives.

And we now proclaim to have these US bases and compacts abrogated? And boot the Americans out? Too late! In the Filipino street parlance, we are "na pusoy" — estoppel!

 

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