Several Cabinet officials against VFA abrogation, says Lacson
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo Lacson claimed several members of President Rodrigo Duterte’s official Cabinet were apprehensive, if not totally against abrogating the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.
On Duterte’s order, the Philippines sent last February 11 a notice to the U.S. terminating the VFA. The abrogation will take effect 18 days after receipt of the notice.
“We’ve talked to several Cabinet members, I won’t mention anymore at baka malasin pa. But they are actually against the abrogation, openly,” he said at the regular forum in the Senate on Wednesday.
“At least pag kami-kami lang, hindi naman sila nag-hesitate magsabi na mali talaga yung decision to abrogate because we have not prepared for it,” he said, noting the “tangible” and “intangible” benefits the Philippines gets from the VFA.
The country, he said, has so far received about $1.3 billion worth of military aid and assistance since the VFA took effect in 1999.
Lacson pointed out that since 2016 alone when Duterte and U.S. President Donald Trump came into power, the Philippines received $900M worth of benefits from the US.
“This is not counting the technical intelligence sharing provided by the US, both ways, kasi tayo nakakapagpo-provide din tayo ng information sa kanila about terrorism, yung drug interdiction. Marami, the whole gamut of benefits derived from the VFA, Mutual Defense Treaty and other similar treaties, nakapanghinayang lang,” he said.
Asked if there were Cabinet members who tried to talk to the President against abrogating the VFA, Lacson said: “Maraming takot kay Presidente sa… well, nag-e-express sila but you know lagi sila nananantsa ba, na kung how to bring it to his attention, how to dissuade him from proceeding sa abrogation.”
Besides, he said, some believed that Duterte had already made up his mind on the termination of the VFA.
“Ang mga nakausap namin or more less halos unanimous sila magsabi, not really against, but meron silang apprehensions and reservations dun sa pag terminate, dun sa pag-abrogate,” said the senator.
“ Wala pa akong nakausap na all-out in supporting the President to abrogate,” he added.
Lacson said he will join his colleagues in the Senate in raising the VFA issue before the Supreme Court to once and for all settle whether or not the Senate concurrence is needed when abrogating a treaty or an international agreement.
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