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Panelo: Directive won’t flipflop

Francis Wakefield

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A directive from President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to be issued today to clear the air over the government’ intent on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) after security officials denied an order was issued to initiate the process for the scrapping of the accord with the United States government.

Chief Legal Counsel and presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo reiterated that an official document will be issued with regards to President Rodrigo Duterte’s instruction to Executive Secretary (ES) Salvador Medialdea to communicate with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) the government’s intention to scrap the VFA with the United States.

Panelo made the remark after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Saturday belied reports that President Duterte had directed the DFA to notify the United States government about its intention.

“First of all it is a weekend. The President is in Davao, so how can he transmit his instructions? So an executive document is needed to put in writing the instructions handed down,” Panelo said during a radio interview.

“It can’t be done merely through a verbal order. We wait until today, Monday when the President arrives,” he added.

Panelo said once the order has been put to paper, this will be immediately sent to the office of Medialdea.

Correct information

Panelo reiterated that he is not sharing wrong information when he previously stated that the President had instructed Medialdea to communicate with the DFA of its desire to scrap the VFA.

“What SND (Secretary of National Defense) meant is ES has yet to receive the instruction. That is what ES also told me last night that he has not received the instruction yet from PRRD,” Panelo said.

“There is no inconsistency. I was quoting PRRD of what he told me. If he has not given the instruction yet to ES it does not mean the info I shared to media is untrue. It only means ES has not yet gotten the directive from PRRD,” he added.

Lorenzana earlier refuted Panelo’s confirmation last Friday night that the President instructed Medialdea to tell top diplomat Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to “send the notice of confirmation to the US government.”

“This is fake news. Secretary Locsin has not seen the order yet,” the Department of National Defense chief told reporters in a text message.

Lorenzana: Nada

“According to Secretary Medialdea, none. Nada. Zilch,” he stressed.

Lorenzana previously said that Mr. Duterte will push through with the scrapping of the VFA even with the possibility of its negative effects on the Philippines.

“The pros and cons were laid out and it is clear that we also benefit in terms of grants (military equipment, training, Humanitarian and Disaster Response) from the VFA. But the President, as the ultimate authority on foreign relations, has decided. And whatever he decides on this matter has my unqualified support,” Lorenzana stated in last Thursday’s inquiry by the Senate on the benefits of the VFA.

The Chief Executive’s decision to scrap the VFA came at the heels of the revocation of Sen. Ronald de la Rosa’s US visa.

Panelo said the President’s decision terminating or abrogating the VFA no longer has to pass through the Senate.

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