President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech during the Annual General Membership Meeting of the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association Inc. at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on Jan. 21, 2020.
King Rodriguez/Presidential Photo
Duterte told: Terminate VFA to defend Philippine sovereignty, not just Bato
Ratziel San Juan ( - January 24, 2020 - 12:30pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States has been criticized for being used as leverage for Sen. Bato dela Rosa’s visa.

BAYAN secretary-general Renato Reyes said that termination of the VFA should not be trivialized and must only be done to uphold Philippine sovereignty.

“The termination of the VFA is a serious matter. We have fought for it since 1999. It is NOT a mere bargaining chip to get Bato back his US Visa. The termination of the VFA is needed because it is an affront to our national sovereignty,” Reyes posted on social media.

“Ang pagbasura sa VFA ay di dapat nakasalalay sa kung bibigyan ba o hindi ng US visa si Bato. Ang pagbasura sa VFA ay matagal nang dapat ginawa dahil ito ay di pantay. Kung gagawing sangkalan ito para magka-visa si Bato, anong klaseng policy ito?”

(Junking the VFA should not be based on whether or not Bato is granted a US visa. Termination of the VFA is long-overdue since it’s not a mutually-beneficial agreement. If it’s just used as leverage for Bato’s visa, what kind of policy is this?)

Duterte gave Washington a one-month deadline to reconsider the cancellation of Dela Rosa's US visa.

"I'm warning you, this is the first time. Kapag hindi ninyo ginawa ang correction diyan. One, I will terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement. Tapusin ko yang p***** *** na 'yan," the president said in a speech in San Isidro, Leyte.

"I am giving notice and they begin to count. I am giving the American government one month from now."

The said agreement signed in 1998 allows American and Filipino troops to conduct joint training operations in Philippine territory.

Sen. Ping Lacson, who heads the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, said that the cancellation of a US visa does not have the same weight as terminating the VFA.

“The Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and United States is a BILATERAL (two-sided) accord that went through some back-and-forth diplomatic discussions prior to ratification by the Senate, after some intense plenary deliberation,” Lacson said in a Friday statement.

“On the other hand, the US visa is a conditional authorization UNILATERALLY (one-sided) given to a visiting foreigner which may be granted, canceled or even denied outright, without need for explanation or justification.”

The senator said that lacking a Philippine Supreme Court ruling on the matter, Duterte has the capacity to unilaterally break a treaty or bilateral agreement without the consent of a supermajority (2/3) vote of the Senate.

“Having said that, the Supreme Court should act soonest on whether the Senate’s consent is needed before the executive department can terminate a treaty or bilateral agreement – an issue raised in a petition filed before it by members of the Senate,” Lacson said.

PDP-Laban president and Sen. Koko Pimentel, on the other hand, supported Duterte's open threat.

“Re VFA, that agreement should always be subject to review. The President may cancel it with or without a reason. He can even say that times have changed and it is no longer needed by the country,” Pimentel said in a statement.

Dela Rosa told the media on Wednesday that the United States had canceled his visa without explanation, only informing him that he could reapply.

He has since welcomed Duterte's threat against the US and commended the president for being a "leader who doesn't want his people treated unfairly."

I don't deserve this bargain, but it is not all about me. It is about a one-sided foreign relations," Dela Rosa said in a statement.

“Ok lang mga sundalo nila labas pasok sa ating teritoryo while a senator of this republic is barred from entering their territory due to their intentons of tinkering with our domestic affairs.”

Along with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement in 2014 and the Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951, the VFA has been alleged by progressive groups as a tool of the superpower United States to expand its political and military influence globally.

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