De Lima: ‘Dictatorial’ scrapping of VFA a slap on Senate
MANILA, Philippines—Opposition Senator Leila de Lima branded President Rodrigo Duterte’s “dictatorial” move to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States a “stinging slap” on the Senate.
On Duterte’s order, the Philippine government sent a notice to the US on Tuesday, terminating the VFA. The abrogation will take effect after 180 days.
“Duterte’s termination of the VFA is epically wrong,” De Lima, former Department of Justice secretary, said in a statement on Wednesday from his detention center at Camp Crame in Quezon City.
“It is a gigantic geo-political blunder, and a grievous misstep that may further unsettle the functioning of our very own government — one that is supposedly built on constitutionalism and the principle of checks and balances,” she said.
While a review of the VFA may be timely now, De Lima warned that its sudden termination could impact on Philippines’ claim on disputed territories, especially amid China’s “aggressiveness” in grabbing territories in the West Philippine Sea as well as “in threatening the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.”
“It really looks like the endgame for Duterte in all of these is to align the Philippines more closely with China and Russia, away from the US and our other old allies,” she said.
“Worse, the unilateral – nay, dictatorial – move of Duterte to abrogate the VFA is a stinging slap to the institution of the Senate, which has the shared treaty-making power under the Constitution,” the senator added.
De Lima coauthored a resolution in the 17th Congress, which asserts the Senate’s authority over treaty or international agreements withdrawal.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has filed a similar resolution this 18th Congress but the Senate has yet to decide on it.
“I am praying for the spirit of independence and the sense of statesmanship to prevail among my colleagues at the 18th Congress as they are being called to assert the institutional role and prerogatives of the Senate in this current crisis, and in the face of an overreaching autocrat. I hope they affirm the language and spirit of the Drilon resolution,” De Lima went on.
And should the issue reaches the Supreme Court, the senator expressed hopes it would act with dispatch unlike when the same was raised after Duterte’s unilateral withdrawal from the Rome Statute.
“SC cannot afford to remain passive when confronted with such issues of transcendental importance to our system of government and the running of our major institutions of power,” she said.
“Hindi pwedeng pabayaan lang ang isang Pangulo — lalo pa ang ganitong klaseng panggulo [We can’t just allow a president, especially this kind of president]— to decide all by himself on vital matters like this that impinge on our national life and our standing in the international community,” De Lima added.
Edited by JPV
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