No review: Duterte moves to junk VFA
President Rodrigo Duterte will direct his top diplomat to officially inform the United States that the Philippines will terminate an agreement allowing US military presence in the country, his spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Friday.
The decision came a day after Foreign Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr. told senators that he favored a “vigorous review” of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to resolve sovereignty issues between Manila and Washington. Two weeks earlier, he praised the President for his “good move” to threaten to end the accord.
Besides, Locsin added, he had not received any direct order from the President to serve the official termination note to the US government.
Panelo said Mr. Duterte will issue the directive through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
“I talked to him this morning. I asked him, ‘Mr. President, Teddyboy is saying you don’t have any instruction to write the notice of termination,’” Panelo said in a phone interview.
‘Send notice to US’
He quoted the President saying in response: “I’ll instruct the executive secretary to tell him (Locsin) to send the notice of termination to the US government.”
It was the clearest indication so far that Mr. Duterte was determined to end the 1999 agreement that governs the conduct of US troops who visit the country for military exercises with Filipino soldiers in the Philippines. The accord was crafted after the Senate rejected the proposed renewal of the Military Bases Agreement in 1991.
Locsin on Friday insisted that Mr. Duterte had the sole authority to scrap the VFA and the Cabinet members’ views were irrelevant.
“We need a President who blows his top when his country gets senatorial shet from the United States. Let me tell you this. He has the constitutional power and authority to abrogate any treaty for any reason especially an insult to our sovereignty,” Locsin said on Twitter, referring to a US Senate resolution calling for the release from detention of the President’s most strident critic, Sen. Leila de Lima.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, along with Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, filed a resolution urging the President to reconsider his plan to rescind the VFA to allow the Senate to assess its effects on the country’s defense and security.
Mr. Duterte’s threat was an immediate retaliation for the revocation of the US visa of Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a former national police chief who was the main enforcer of his bloody war on drugs. —WITH REPORTS FROM MARLON RAMOS AND JEROME ANING
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