Stand on our own | Inquirer Opinion

Stand on our own

/ 12:30 AM February 14, 2020

The notice to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) by the Philippine government to its partner, the United States of America, is raising more than eyebrows. It is an official act that signals an even more disturbing scenario. It may not disturb the President who initiated this move to terminate the VFA but it will disturb everybody else.

I heard the presidential Spokesperson say that the President wants to see the Philippines stand on its own, to take care of ourselves without depending on others. For a long time, I deeply shared that sentiment. It is galling to a Filipino to feel that it has foreign masters, especially when there are conflicting positions on any issue. I had, in fact, promised myself that I would contribute what I can towards being able to stand on our own.


In that personal journey to contribute to the full emancipation of the Filipino and the Philippines, however, have been many painful realizations. I now understand that the more intense one’s conviction is for that kind of an independence, the more intense, then, is the frustration of its impossibility.

Is it really impossible? In my lifetime, yes. In your lifetime, whoever is reading this, yes, too. Yet, we are supposed to already be a free and sovereign nation. How can, then, standing on our own be impossible?


Do we remember the saying, “Might is right”? This saying is not a principle but more real than theoretical. Because when things are not aligned, might becomes right when might insists on its preference. Look at the United Nations. Look at how the United States, China, and Russia are, as they say, more equal than others, allowed more privileges and exceptions that other member countries.

Do we remember the saying, “Survival of the “? In fact, this saying simply affirms that those who survive end up the fittest. Combining this with the “might is right” reality, having might is a distinct advantage in both surviving and being the fittest. Human life on the planet Earth is forest and foremost about the material, the physical. There are other dimensions, of course, but they mostly come into play only if one is first alive.

In eras and eons of the past, full independence was usually not an accomplishment but a gift or accident of life. Territories were often isolated, especially island or mountain communities. Primitive conditions kept many people completely apart from others and gained their full independence that way. They simply had to survive on their own without the benefit of engaging other communities or territories.

Have we heard a more recent saying, “The world has become a global village”? Why has this saying become a growing reality, and daily moves to become even more true? The term “global village” points to the present phenomenon of a world becoming more interconnected, primarily because of the spread of technology. The thing about interconnectivity is that it promotes the direction of living together rather than standing on our own.

The dictation of foreign powers today involves less invasion but more penetration. Engaged economies, engaged technologies, engaged information and educational systems, and, in a more adverse but nonetheless real way, engaged health issues like epidemic and pandemics. The country or people who need more simply submit more. Maybe, the dictation today it’s not as brutal, not as physical, but elicits submission just the same.

My deepest realizations and frustrations came when I took a long, objective look at ourselves, at our patterns of behavior, our fears and aspirations. I quickly saw the conditioned divisiveness, the most insidious and debilitating virus that was exploited and deepened by our foreign masters. Remember “Divide and Rule”? Well, to rule natives from thousands of islands and not enough soldiers from Spain or America to be stationed everywhere, the divide-and-rule tactic was so successfully applied to us that after 75 years of official self-rule, our default state of mind is driven by partisanship. How can a people weakened by centuries of colonization bounce back to normalcy and progress when we are predisposed to fight one another at the behest of local or national political warlords?

I know that some people will say that standing up to the United States is our statement of independence, is our exercise of sovereignty. It might well be but it is selectively applied. It would have been a more expressive manner of exercising our sovereignty by standing up to those who would steal our territory, claim it as their own, and then build facilities on it – facilities that may even be used against us. Both are exercises of sovereignty but both are not exercised with consistency. Rather, there remains a tinge of partisanship.


It is extremely challenging to take a path of non-partisanship in the global stage because the big players will seldom ever allow it. Because precisely the big players are themselves the most partisan, we are inevitably forced to side with one against another or others. That ends our standing up to a dictating country and begins our alliance with one against the other. It is not as though we are in a solid position in the first place. Our economy is anchored on OFWs, on the BPO business, and now add the POGO. Between foreign remittances from OFWs, revenue from BPOs and POGO, we are daily reminded how vulnerable we are on foreign politics and economics. Even our tourism is so dependent on foreigners.

The path to self-determination is a noble and necessary one. Despite the great sacrifices attendant to it, we must take that journey. But the journey begins with us, our solidarity, our appreciation of the cause, our commitment to pursue and endure. It is not an adversarial path but one where we seek friendships with all. That is how our economy has been thriving – by being inclusive rather than partisan. And that is how we will prosper – by working together towards goals bigger than our egos.

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TAGS: United States of America, Visiting Forces Agreement
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