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Senate won’t intervene on Duterte plan to terminate VFA

The Senate may come up with a unified stand on President Duterte’s plan to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), but it will not intervene on his decision on the matter, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Monday.

“Perhaps what we need is to discuss it. I am not proposing anything other than to talk about it,” Sotto told reporters.

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“It could be through a caucus or hearing … But it will have no bearing [on the President’s decision]. It will just be a statement. It will just be a sense of the Senate,” he said.

‘Wrong reason’

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate defense and security committee, said the President’s threat to terminate the VFA merely due to the revocation of Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa was the “wrong reason” for ending the country’s military treaty with its major ally.

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“While they are trying to rectify that by saying it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back … I don’t see the proportionateness,” he said.

Lacson, a retired chief of the Philippine National Police, warned that the country’s fight against terrorism could be the biggest casualty of Mr. Duterte’s adverse decision, pointing out the importance of the intelligence information that the United States had provided to local law enforcement agencies in thwarting terror threats in the past.

He also shared the fear of Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III that the President’s threat might lead Washington to void all its military agreements with Manila.

A lawmaker from Mindanao has also expressed alarm over the plan of the Duterte government to terminate the VFA even as Communist rebels said it was about time to scrap the agreement altogether.

Although the move of Mr. Duterte to abrogate the VFA is “within the powers of the Chief Executive,” to nullify the agreement “will be inimical to our national interest and security,” Cagayan de Oro 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said.

“At a time when we have a territorial conflict with China on our exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, this should be the last thing that our President should do,” Rodriguez said in a statement released Saturday.

In a separate statement issued on Sunday, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) challenged Duterte to “walk his talk and actualize the termination of the VFA.”

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“For decades, the Filipino people have demanded the abrogation of the VFA which has allowed the trampling of Philippine sovereignty by US military forces, as well as numerous human rights violations, including rape and murder,” the CPP said in a statement posted on its website.

‘Unequal military treaties’

The CPP said the people must vigorously push Duterte to abolish the VFA and other “unequal military treaties” and to call for the pullout of all foreign troops from Philippine soil.

The revocation of the VFA, along with other “lopsided military agreements such as the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty and the US-RP Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement,” is a long-overdue measure to assert the country’s national sovereignty, said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights group Karapatan in a statement on Sunday. INQ

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TAGS: President Duterte, Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Senate, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Visiting Forces Agreement
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