“I’ll really thank him: ‘sir, I didn’t know that you love me that much.’ But as I have said, the President would have the same reaction if that (visa cancellation) happened to any other senator,” Dela Rosa said yesterday.
The STAR/Mong Pintolo
Bato to Duterte: Let it go, attend US meet
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 25, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa told reporters that he intends to speak with President Duterte on Monday to thank him, and ask him to reconsider his decision to reject US President Donald Trump’s standing invitation to visit the United States.

“I’ll really thank him: ‘sir, I didn’t know that you love me that much.’ But as I have said, the President would have the same reaction if that (visa cancellation) happened to any other senator,” Dela Rosa said yesterday.

He said he would ask Duterte to “let go” of the issue, and attend the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations special summit to prove that the Philippines has an independent foreign policy.

On Thursday, Dela Rosa said Duterte was a leader “who doesn’t want his people treated unfairly,” and that the scrapping for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) was “not all about me.”

“It is about a one-sided foreign relations. It’s okay for their (US) soldiers to come and go from our territory, while a senator of this Republic is barred from entering their territory due to their intentions of tinkering with our domestic affairs,” he said.

Senate can’t stop President

Senators conceded yesterday that Duterte can unilaterally scrap the VFA without the concurrence of the Senate, even as they asked the Supreme Court to issue a ruling to settle the matter.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, said Duterte can terminate the VFA being “chief implementor” of the country’s foreign policy and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

“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.

He said while it may appear to many that Duterte’s move to cancel the security pact was simply to get even after the US visa of Dela Rosa was cancelled, the issue is about foreign interference.

“But I see the point of the President. He believes Sen. Bato is being punished by the US for having once been the implementor of his main program of government – the all-out war against drugs,” the senator said.

“Since that (war on drugs) is domestic policy, then punishing someone (even if indirectly) for a domestic policy shows the intent to interfere by a foreign state with Philippine domestic policy,” he said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the committee on national defense and security, said Duterte’s move to scrap the VFA and the US’ cancellation of Dela Rosa’s visa should not be automatically tied by Malacañang together.

He said the VFA between the Philippines and US is a bilateral accord that went through “some back-and-forth diplomatic discussions prior to ratification by the Senate, after some intense plenary deliberation.”

On the other hand, the US visa is a conditional authorization unilaterally given to a visiting foreigner, which may be granted, canceled or even denied outright without need for explanation or justification, he said.

Lacson recalled his US visa was cancelled sometime in the mid-2000s, that he surmised was in connection with the Aragoncillo case, as the US authorities did not give any reason for the cancellation.

“I never make an issue out of it for the same reason that I am saying now – it is the US government’s right as it was only my privilege to be granted the same,” he said.

He said in the absence of a Supreme Court ruling on the President’s power to unilaterally break a treaty or bilateral agreement like the VFA without the consent of a two-thirds majority vote of the members of the Senate, Duterte can scrap the pact without the chamber’s consent.

“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,” he said.

Lacson was apparently referring to the petition filed by opposition senators led by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon in 2018 asking the SC to require consent of the chamber before Duterte can withdraw the country from the Rome Statute, which founded the International Criminal Court.

Drilon recalled he filed a resolution in the Senate to assert the chamber’s right and mandate to be sought its permission before Malacañang makes any move to withdraw from any treaty.

The resolution however did not pass the Senate.

“It would be better for Malacañang to focus on the welfare and suffering of millions of our countrymen affected by the Taal Volcano eruption and the threat of the coronavirus outbreak than the cancellation of one US visa,” Sen. Francis Pangilinan told reporters.

EDCA, not VFA

Sen. Imee Marcos said Duterte should scrap the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) instead, not the VFA.

She said the VFA allows Philippine laws to apply to American soldiers when they are in the Philippines, “not like before that when American troops come to the Philippines, only American law will apply in accordance with international law.”

“It was VFA that allowed us to arrest Daniel Smith, the rapist American soldier. EDCA allows US troops and equipment to be stationed in designated Philippine bases for a longer time skirting the constitutional ban on foreign bases in the Philippines,” Marcos said.

BATO DELA ROSA RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE
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