Group slams Duterte: Terminate VFA because of sovereignty issues, not because of Bato
MANILA, Philippines – A group in favor of terminating the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (US) slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for using the issue as a “bargaining chip” to bring back Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa.
According to Renato Reyes Jr., Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary-general, the termination of the VFA should be based on US’ alleged abuses of the treaty, and not because one the visa of Dela Rosa, one of Duterte’s closest allies, was revoked.
“Ang pagbasura sa VFA ay sa batayan ng pagiging labag nito sa ating soberanya, di dahil nawalan ng US visa si Bato (Junking VFA should be based on the abuses against our sovereignty, not because Bato lost his US visa),” Reyes said in a Facebook post.
“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. Wag i-trivialize ang usaping ito (Don’t trivialize this issue),” he added.
Earlier, President Duterte threatened to scrap the VFA if US does not return Dela Rosa’s visa within one month. Dela Rosa, Duterte’s first appointment as police chief, revealed on Wednesday that his visa was revoked, and was told that he could reapply again.
However, Reyes said that Duterte should not make knee-jerk reactions just because his allies were in hot waters.
“Yung foreign policy natin ay di dapat knee-jerk reaction kapag na-trobol ang alipores ng Pangulo. Ang VFA, nagresulta ng Subic Rape Case at pagpatay kay Jennifer Laude, pero wala kang ginawa,” Reyes said.
(Our foreign policy should not based on knee-jerk reactions when the President’s allies are in trouble. The VFA was a cause in the Subic Rape Case and the killing of Jennifer Laude, but you did nothing.)
“Ngayong nawalan ng US visa si Bato, trigerred ka? Terminate mo? Paano ka namin seseryosohin?” he asked.
(Now that Bato’s US visa was revoked, you were triggered? Threatened to terminate it? How can we take you seriously?)
The Visiting Forces Agreement allows cooperation between the Philippine and American defense forces, and for US military to partake in training programs more commonly known as Balikatan exercises.
However, the treaty went under heavy criticism after US denied the Philippines’ bid for the custody of US Marine officers who were main suspects in two controversial cases — the Subic Rape Case and the murder of transgender Jennifer Laude.
US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was found guilty of raping an alias Nicole in Subic in 2005, while fellow Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton was also convicted of homicide after he killed Jennifer Laude.
Dela Rosa said he did not know the reason why his visa was revoked, but speculated that it might be because of his role as Duterte’s police chief, where he led a bloody war on drugs. Currently, more than 5,500 drug suspects have been killed in legitimate police operations, but critics say that the number may be higher.
Other people also speculated that the cancelation may also be because of his role in jailing Senator Leila de Lima, who is facing drug-related charges back when she was still justice secretary. The US recently passed the 2020 budget, with provisions to ban the entry of people responsible for De Lima’s imprisonment.
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