'Not on a whim': Duterte's VFA decision was studied, Palace says

'Not on a whim': Duterte's VFA decision was studied, Palace says
In this Apr. 10, 2019 photo, US Army soldiers with 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division engage targets from their Stryker combat vehicles while participating in a Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercise during Balikatan 2019 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in Capas, Tarlac.
US Army / Sgt. 1st Class John Etheridge

MANILA, Philippines — The decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to terminate the country's Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States was a "studied response," Malacañang said Monday.

The president declared that he would be ordering the abrogation of the VFA after Sen. Bato dela Rosa said the US government canceled his visa.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the cancellation of Dela Rosa's US visa was just the "last straw that broke the camel's back."

"It's not 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," Panelo said in a televised press briefing.

The Malacañang spokesman said Duterte's decision was a result of an accumulation of a "series of disrespectful acts" by American officials.

For Duterte, the call of US senators to release Sen. Leila de Lima, who has been detained since February 2017 over drug charges, is an "intrusion and an insult to the judiciary system" of the Philippines.

According to Panelo, another reason was the provisions of a US Senate resolution condemning human rights violations in the conduct of the Duterte administration's campaign against illegal drugs.

Panelo claimed that allegations of human rights violations are "baseless" and "totally exaggerated."

The US Senate resolution bans Philippine officials involved in the drug war and the detention of De Lima from entering the US.

"We are requiring the US to tell us the reason for the barring, as well as Sen. Bato's visa being canceled, but we fell that as a matter of courtesy between countries who are allied it should have given us the reasons therefore," Panelo said.

The Department of Justice, meanwhile, said it is conducting a "preliminary impact assessment" of the possible termination of the agreement.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the assessment "needs thorough review" and that the timeline would depend on how soon the VFA commission can convene.

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