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Palace to heed SC decision on VFA

Malacañang is ready to heed the Supreme Court’s decision should it rule that the Senate’s concurrence is needed to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said he saw no problem should some senators ask the high court to define their rights in treaty withdrawal, following the abrogation of the VFA, a 21-year-old defense pact that allows large-scale US military presence in the country.

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“They can elevate it [to the Supreme Court]. There’s no problem there. We will just follow what the law says. That is what President Duterte always says,” he told Palace reporters on Friday.

“We will seek the concurrence of the Senate if that is what the Supreme Court will say. There’s no problem there,” he said.

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Panelo made the remarks a day after Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said some senators would file a petition for declaratory relief before the high court.

The senators seek to define the constitutional boundaries between the Senate and the executive branch on the issue of withdrawing from treaties, following the latter’s unilateral termination of the VFA.

Drilon warned against the implications of a unilateral withdrawal that chose to ignore the Senate, adding that this goes beyond the issue of the VFA.

The President earlier directed Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to send a notice of the VFA’s termination to the US Embassy, despite the call of some senators for the VFA’s “vigorous review.”

Ratified in 1998, the VFA lays down rules on the presence of US military personnel here, such as allowing the United States to retain jurisdiction over its military personnel accused of committing crimes.

With the government’s notice to terminate the VFA, the agreement is set to expire on Aug. 9, or 180 days after the American government received the notice.

Critics have warned that the termination of the agreement without the Senate’s concurrence was a mistake, as this will have implications on the country’s other treaties with other nations.

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The Makati Business Club (MBC) said it was concerned about the looming cancellation of the VFA.

The MBC raised its reservations more than a week after the Duterte administration notified the United States that it is ending the VFA.

The MBC said the pact had been “critical” in training and supporting the military’s fight against terrorism and other threats, as well as in responding to natural disasters. But more than that, it said it was important to have strong ties with the United States because of economic reasons.

“We are therefore concerned about the notice of cancellation of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which may affect other security agreements, and hope that this paves the way for discussions between the Philippines and the US on ways to eliminate its negative factors but preserve its positive benefits,” it said.

“Makati Business Club expresses its belief that strong ties with the US are important for both economic and security reasons. Over decades, they have brought in investments, jobs, infrastructure and aid,” the group said.

Mr. Duterte had earlier threatened to revoke the VFA after the United States canceled the visa of his political ally Sen. Ronald dela Rosa over alleged violations of human rights.

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TAGS: Palace, Panelo, Supreme Court, VFA
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