Duterte did not consult DFA, DND chiefs before threat to scrap VFA
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte did not consult his foreign affairs and defense secretaries before uttering threats to terminate a 20-year military accord between the Philippines and the United States.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said this during Thursday’s Senate hearing on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) review even as he also pointed out that it is the prerogative of the chief executive “to make that call.”
On January 23, Duterte threatened to abrogate the VFA if the U.S. government does not rectify the canceled visa of his political ally, Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa in 30 days.
The VFA, which took effect in 1999, covers the conduct of visiting American soldiers in the Philippines and serves as a foundation for military exercises between the Philippines and the U.S.
On the question of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on whether or not Locsin and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana were consulted on Duterte’s plan to scrap the military pact, Locsin stressed that the President could express the desire to terminate it even without consultation.
“The President can fire off his desire to abrogate it. Then we come in to advise him whether he is wise or not, all things considered,” Locsin told senators.
“It is the prerogative of the executive, the President, and commander-in-chief to make that call. Having made that call in what I believe is a valid reason,” he added.
Drilon responded by saying that he does not “dispute the authority of the President” as he pressed Locsin for a categorical answer.
“But certainly as Secretary of National Defense and as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, it is expected that there be consultations done, was there a consultation?” the senator asked.
Locsin said: “No (there was no consultation) nor would I have wanted any consultations before he (Duterte) makes that statement.”
Locsin and Lorenzana are the chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces (PCVF), which monitors the movement of visiting forces in the country.
“The commander-in-chief must be able to express what he wants his displeasure at the insult delivered by a foreign power…I would not want him to come first to me nor do I believe the Secretary of National Defense would like,” the foreign affairs chief said.
During the hearing, Locsin said there is a need for a “vigorous” review of the VFA as he informed senators of possible repercussions should it be terminated.
Edited by KGA
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