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Panelo refutes Lacson: All Cabinet members supportive of Duterte move vs VFA

/ 10:48 AM February 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Friday dismissed the claim of Senator Panfilo Lacson that “several” members of the Cabinet think that the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is “wrong.”

Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on national defense, said Thursday that a good number of Cabinet members are just “afraid” to voice out their concern about repercussions of President Duterte’s decision to terminate the key military pact with the United States.

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“We talked to several Cabinet members, I won’t mention [their names]… But they are actually against the abrogation [of VFA], openly. At least pag kami-kami lang, di sila nag-hesitate magsabi na mali ang decision to abrogate (When it’s just us talking, they are not hesistating to say that the decision to abrogate the VFA is wrong) because we have not prepared for it,” Lacson said.

Asked to comment, Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo contradicted the senator’s claim, adding that everyone in the Cabinet is supportive of the President’s decision.

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“Nope, all the members of the Cabinet support the President on his foreign policy,” Panelo told the INQUIRER in a text message.

Duterte ordered the termination of the VFA after the U.S. canceled the visa of his longtime confidant, Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who also served as Philippine National Police chief and oversaw the bloody war on illegal drugs from 2016 to 2018.

The VFA accorded legal status to U.S. troops who were rotated in the country for military exercises and humanitarian assistance operations.

According to Malacañang, Dela Rosa’s visa cancellation is the “last straw that broke the camel’s back,” pointing out other instances the U.S. government had supposedly interfered with the Philippines’ affairs and sovereignty.

The Duterte administration is particularly railing against the move of the U.S. Senate seeking sanctions against Philippine officials involved in the drug war and the detention of Senator Leila De Lima, a staunch Duterte administration critic who has been detained for drug-related charges.

U.S. President Donald Trump downplayed the Philippines’ decision, saying that he is “fine” with Duterte’s move and that the U.S. government would save a lot of money in the termination of the military pact.

“If they would like to do that, that’s fine, we’ll save a lot of money,” Trump said.

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Edited by MUF

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TAGS: Cabinet, Defense, Malacañang, Military, Panfilo Lacson, Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, Salvador Panelo, United States, VFA
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