The Philippines will serve to the United States (US) a notice of termination of the Visiting Force Agreement (VFA), Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo disclosed on Friday night.
Secretary Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed Executive Secretary Salvado Medialdea to communicate to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) the government’s intention to cancel VFA.
The President’s instruction came a day after DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said there was no official VFA termination yet.
Panelo revealed that the Chief Executive is scheduled to talk by phone with US President Donald Trump to discuss matters, with the VFA expected to be among them.
“No agenda was spoken of. Isn’t it that the two are friends? They have mutual admiration for each other,” Panelo said in Filipino.
Up to Rody
In the event Trump asks Mr. Duterte not to scrap VFA, Panelo said it would be to up to the President who cited four reasons for terminating it.
In a previous press briefing, Panelo said that the cancellation of the US visa of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa was the “last straw that broke the camel’s back” and which angered the President into ordering VFA’s scrapping.
“It was an accumulation, the series of disrespectful acts by some of the US senators. One, for demanding the release of a senator (Leila de Lima) who is lawfully detained. To our mind and to the President’s mind, that is an intrusion and an insult to the judiciary system of this country,” Panelo said.
“Number two, a US Senate Resolution condemning alleged violations of human rights which have been a cycle of lies peddled by the critics and detractors of the President which are baseless and totally exaggerated,” he added.
Panelo said the third reason is the introduction of an amendment to the US national budget barring entry of certain Philippine government officials who were involved or has anything to do with what they described as wrongful detention which is false.
He said the fourth was the cancellation of Senator dela Rosa’s visa. “These are the reasons why the President decided to terminate the VFA,” he added.
Panelo said people should remember that the VFA is a special grant of privilege agreement given to the Americans. He pointed at the fact that the Philippines cannot even assume jurisdiction over crimes committed by US military personnel while in the country while covered by VFA.
Likewise, “US aircraft and vessels can move without restriction in the Philippines, unrestricted movement,” Panelo said.
“So those are the reasons. It’s not, as expressed by some, a decision on a whim. It is a studied response to acts that the President deems to be not only an intrusion, but an assault to the sovereignty of this country,” he added.
“Let me remind them that this President is a tactical and thinking president who has never lost an election, and who has threaded a path that ordinary mortals, as well as even those pseudo intellectuals have not,” Panelo said.
He has done controversial things but he remains to be on top of the surveys, whether it’s a trust rating, it’s a satisfaction rating or an approval rating. The Filipinos overwhelmingly support this President. Those of course who oppose constitute a measly six percent,” he added.