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The last straw

Salvador Panelo



Given a series of intrusive and disrespectful acts committed by the US Senate, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has decided to cause the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.

The President can not just sit idly by and watch while the US is treating our country as if we are its vassal and a colonized adjunct. He can not countenance the outrageous acts of some of the US senators demanding the release of a Philippine senator accused of being an illegal drug coddler who is lawfully detained; introducing a rider to the US national budget barring the entry of Philippine government officials who has something to do with what they describe as a “wrongful detention” of Senator Leila De Lima; and the passing of a US Senate Resolution condemning the Duterte administration for alleged violations of human rights charge which is a recurring cycle of lies peddled by the critics and detractors of the President.

These are effectively an assault against an equally independent sovereign state as well as an offensive and insulting intrusion to our judicial processes and a disgusting affront to our sovereignty.

The cancelation of the US visa of a senator of the Republic by an agency of the US government without even stating the reason therefor (not that it is its duty to give the rationale of the revocation of the visa as it is its privilege to refuse entry to any non-US citizen but advancing the cause of the cancelation is a courtesy required from an ally ) was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

The Visiting Forces Agreement is a special privilege grant agreement. Among others, under the VFA, the Philippines can not assume jurisdiction over crimes committed here by the US military personnel unless the crime is of particular importance to us. They can not be arrested or detained. They can not be tried in religious and military courts. They are exempted from visa and passport requirements. To top it all, the US vessels and aircrafts have unrestricted movement in the Philippines. We do not have the same special privileges in the US.

The process of terminating the VFA has been set in motion by the Philippine government. We need only to notify the US government in writing of our desire to terminate it. It will be effective 130 days from the receipt of such notice.

Contrary to some sentiments being expressed, the decision to terminate the VFA is not based on a whim nor a knee jerk reaction by the President arising from the cancelation of Senator Bato De la Rosa’s US visa. It is a studied and correct response by a tactical and thinking President who has defied conventional wisdom on matters that ordinary mortals and pseudo-intellectuals dare not tread. He does the unexpected and the controversial but the overwhelming majority of Filipinos give him unprecedented trust, satisfaction and approval rating.

By such decision of abrogating the VFA, PRRD is putting the US government on notice that the Philippine government will not know-tow to its wishes or dictates. It demands respect from its long time friend if it expects the friendship that was moulded in bilateral relations in war and in peace for many decades to last.

If the US still does not read the writing on the wall, the decision of the President to end the VFA and his thumbing down the invitation to attend the ASEAN- US special summit in the US should convince them that there is a new international ballgame emerging and PRRD is not about to blink his eyes and his mind is on course.

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