Senators Miriam and Joker are yapping about abrogating the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in the face of the apparent US refusal to yield custody of American Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith to Philippine authorities. What did we expect ? The Americans have a lot of room to maneuver and impede efforts to make Smith experience our inimitable penal system. Senator Arroyo pointed out the obvious, that we are “headed for a rough time with the US, which is not ready to give up Smith to Philippine prison authorities.” Hence, the flag-waving and chest-thumping of the two veteran lawmakers.
Realistically, there won’t be any great outcry to set aside the VFA except from the usual anti-U.S. groups. But this is a neat, gut-issue which may divert public attention from the alleged collusion of contractors and public officials in bidding for major road projects which was exposed by the World Bank and implicated First Dude Mike Arroyo. That the World Bank saw it fit to blacklist three Filipino construction firms and four Chinese companies that sought to undertake the National Roads Improvement and Management Program because of blatant corruption and bid-rigging is as much a blow to our national prestige as the U.S. refusal to surrender Cpl. Smith. And the stink reaches all the way to the top.
Bashing the World Bank for its supposed refusal to cooperate in the investigations being undertaken by Congress is another ploy which serves to distract from the pressing need to examine the actual, existing grounds for the WB report on collusion among contractors involving the DPWH and gross overpricing of public works. And why the Arroyo administration has done nothing except ignore it despite having known of the WB report since 2007.
By all means, let’s not let up on efforts to send Mr. Smith to jail. But we shouldn’t allow this new wrinkle to draw us away from other issues which are as serious, if not greater, a blemish to the country’s image.