‘Lapit nang lapit’: Duterte twits US for trying to salvage VFA
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday revealed that the United States had been trying to reach out to salvage the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which he had earlier terminated citing the alleged intrusion of the US into Philippine sovereignty.
Before leading the oath-taking of newly-appointed officials in Malacañang, Duterte said he met with US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim and discussed US-Philippine relations.
“I apologize for being late. First I was talking to the former ambassador who is now assigned in Indonesia. Kim, I forgot his name again. We are talking about the Philippines-US relationship then I was donning the ranks of the military,” Duterte said.
Kim is reportedly on his way to becoming the US envoy in Indonesia once his stint in the Philippines ends.
At one point in his speech, the President said the US government had been trying to reach out since he unilaterally terminated the VFA, which accorded legal status to US troops who were rotated in the country for military exercises and humanitarian assistance operations.
“So I told the ambassador that the ruckus… It came to a [point] in my quarrel with them that I have to end the VFA. Now they keep on reaching out,” he said, speaking partly in Filipino.
Duterte then defended his brutal war on drugs, which has drawn international condemnation, stressing that he was only after the protection of Filipinos.
Some US lawmakers and even former US President Barrack Obama during his term criticized Duterte’s drug war for supposedly violating human rights.
“So I said, and I repeat: How could it be wrong? When can it be wrong if I say: ‘Do not destroy my country because I will kill you’? Who can debate with that? That is the preservation of my people. If you destroy society, what will be left of us. We’re already struggling,” Duterte said.
“I told him. I don’t… Extrajudicial killing? I don’t care about that. You can bring on the charges you want, but I will stick to my guns. I will kill anybody that will tend to destroy my country,” the firebrand leader stressed.
Duterte unilaterally terminated the VFA after the US canceled the visa of Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who once served as chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and oversaw Duterte’s bloody drug war drugs from 2016 to 2018.
According to Malacañang, the cancellation of Dela Rosa’s visa is the “last straw that broke the camel’s back,” pointing out other instances when the US government supposedly interfered in Philippine affairs and sovereignty.
The Duterte administration is railing particularly against the move of the US Senate seeking sanctions against Philippine officials involved in the drug war and the detention of Sen. Leila De Lima, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration who has been detained for drug-related charges.
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