Palace says scrapping VFA a ‘studied response’ vs US intrusion
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States is not based on a “whim” but rather a “studied response” against the supposed intrusion into the Philippines’ sovereignty of the US.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said this Monday as Malacañang defended the President’s directive, which came after the cancellation of the US visa of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Duterte’s ally and longtime confidant.
“It is a studied response to acts that the President deems to be not only an intrusion but also an assault to the sovereignty of this country,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
Panelo, who is also Duterte’s legal counsel, insisted that the President’s order was prompted by a “series of disrespectful” acts the US allegedly committed and was not solely built on the cancellation of Dela Rosa’s US visa.
The Palace official enumerated the supposed intrusion by the US which consists of the demand of some American Senators to release detained opposition Senator Leila De Lima; the US Senate resolution condemning the violations of human rights under the Duterte administration; and the introduction and approval of an amendment to the US national budget, barring entry to Philippine government officials who were involved in the detention of De Lima.
According to Panelo, the cancellation of the US visa of Dela Rosa was hardly a product of his ill temper, but it was the “last straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The VFA, which took effect in 1999, covers the conduct of visiting American soldiers in the Philippines and serves as a foundation for military exercises between the Philippines and the US.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to submit on Monday its study on the process needed to terminate the VFA.
Since he took office in 2016, Duterte has publicly aired his lack of faith in the US—the country’s longtime military ally and former colonizer—and his desire to pivot to China and Russia.
Panelo further extolled Duterte as a “tactical and thinking President who has never lost an election and who has tread a path that ordinary mortals, as well as even those pseudo-intellectuals, have not tread.”
Filipinos continue to support Duterte despite his controversies that hound his administration, and only a measly percentage of the population don’t support him, Panelo claimed.
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