No Bato visa, no VFA–Duterte
SAN ISIDRO, LEYTE—President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to terminate the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States if the US does not “correct” its cancellation of Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s US visa.
“Now they won’t let Bato (dela Rosa) go to America. I am warning you … if you don’t do the correction there. One, I will terminate the bases, Visiting Forces Agreement. I will end that son of a bitch,” the President said in a speech here on Thursday night before an audience of rebel returnees
The President’s threat came a few days after Dela Rosa, a neophyte senator and former police chief, confirmed that his US visa had been canceled by the US government.
The cancellation came on the heels of a rider in the US 2020 national budget which bans the entry into the US of Filipino officials involved in the detention of Sen. Leila de Lima.Said Mr. Duterte: “I’m giving government and the (US) one month from now for us to talk, (or) I will terminate the VFA … No more bases. They have to start to talk to us because they have to go. You are rude. I’ve (been shamed) before the military. A soldier is just doing his job, and they humiliate him.”
In a text to reporters on Thursday night, Dela Rosa said the issue was not about him, but “about a one-sided foreign relations,” with US soldiers able to enter the country at all times, while a Philippine senator was barred from the United States “due to their intentions of tinkering with our domestic affairs.”
Also on Thursday night, the President said he would ban from the Philippines the US senators behind the rider in the US budget and slammed them for not believing that De Lima was a “criminal.”
“They refuse to believe De Lima is a criminal, that she was collecting money to use in her campaign. She’s ambitious. She wanted to run for senator because she wanted to run for President,” Mr. Duterte said, adding that the case has “already reached the Supreme Court.”De Lima, a staunch critic of the government’s war on drugs, has been detained since 2017. She has described the drug cases against her as “trumped-up” charges, and based on the testimonies of convicted felons and drug lords.
Her trial started in July 2018, and has been delayed by a quick and successive turnover of judges who either inhibited themselves or went on early retirement.
Another judge, the seventh, has been recently assigned to her case. —WITH REPORTS FROM JOEY A. GABIETA AND ADOR VINCENT MAYOL
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