'Subservient to China': Senators react to VFA termination
This file photo shows Sen. Francis Pangilinan during a Kapihan sa Senado media forum.
The STAR/Geremy Pintolo, File
'Subservient to China': Senators react to VFA termination
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - February 11, 2020 - 7:13pm

MANILA, Philippines — Senators on Tuesday slammed the signing of the notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement.

Malacañang confirmed Tuesday morning that Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin had signed the notice which was forwarded to the US Embassy. 

Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan said that the move was indicative of what he said was the administration's subservience to China. 

The senator also asserted that such a measure "is only valid with the concurrence of the Senate." The agreements came into force on May 27, 1999, upon ratification by the Senate. 

"Given our ongoing dispute in the West Philippine Sea, this move favors China and no longer comes as a surprise given how meek and subservient the Administration has been toward China in matters not only of sovereignty but even on matters of public health and safety, as in the coronavirus epidemic," Pangilinan said. 

Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson for his part lamented the inevitable aftereffects that such a directive would bring about.

"Like it or not, bad or good, nothing much can be done now but do a 180-day countdown upon receipt of the notice by Washington. What is certain is that the 1951 PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty will now be reduced to a mere paper treaty as far as the US is concerned," Lacson said. 

"Having said that, there's no more intelligence information sharing in our fight against domestic and foreign terrorist acts, no more US military aid and financing that accounts for a good 52% of what they extend to the whole Asia-Pacific region."

The senator added that these effects "may not include other intangible economic benefits and security from external threats in the West Philippine Sea, as well as humanitarian aid in times of disasters, epidemics and other crises."

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, too, warned of serious economic fall out from "virus, volcano, and VFA (termination)"

'Gripes and disrespect'

The administration's row with the United States over the VFA started when President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to order the abrogation of the defense pact with the United States unless they "correct" the visa cancelation of Sen. Bato dela Rosa, which came ostensibly due to his involvement as architect of the war on drugs.

A provision in the United States 2020 budget barred those involved in the arrest of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima along with human rights violations.

Dela Rosa told reporters on Tuesday that he regrets that the cancellation of his US visa was the last straw that made Duterte terminate the VFA.

"Bothered ako. Nakukunsyesya ako," he said. 

The former Philippine National Police chief asserted that the his case had nothing to do with the agreement's termination. 

"Ako ang sinisisi? My case was just the last straw. It was an actuation of gripes and disrespect na ginawa nila sa atin," he said. 

This, despite Duterte threatening the abrogation almost immediately after news of Dela Rosa's visa cancellation broke. 

The Palace, too, has asserted that the decision was not made on a whim and was a "a studied response to acts that the president deems to be not only an intrusion but an assault to the sovereignty of this country."

"The Administration cited the cancellation of the US visa of Senator dela Rosa and the supposed US interference in the country's human rights record as basis for terminating the VFA. If the Administration thinks such an act will prevent their accountability for the impunity and the blatant disregard of human rights in the murderous drug war then they are mistaken," Pangilinan said. 

"Sooner or later those behind the mass murder of our citizens, mostly poor, will be brought to justice." — with reports from The STAR/Paolo Romero

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