Robredo justifies need of Senate role on VFA scrapping
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate should play a role in any decision regarding the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (US) as the same legislative branch had been consulted prior to its approval in 1999.
That is the view of Vice President Leni Robredo when reporters asked her on Tuesday whether the legislative body should be involved in President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to terminate the VFA.
“Ako, tingin ko kailangan, in the sense na tinanong sila kung papasukin natin ito. Siguro naman, kung tatalikuran natin iyong mga pinasok, kailangan pa din iyong kanilang pakiramdam on the matter,” Robredo said on the sidelines of a classroom turnover ceremony in Barangay Sampaloc, Tanay, Rizal.
(I believe it is needed, in the sense that they were asked before whether we should enter into this agreement. Maybe, if we would turn our backs on this, we still need their sentiments on the matter.)
“Iyong pinag-aaralan hindi lang iyong pagpasok sa isang agreement, pero dapat paglabas sa isang agreement, kailangang pag-aralan din ng wasto, na hindi whimsical—hindi petty, hindi whimsical—iyong mga dahilan kung bakit tatalikod tayo sa mga agreements na pinasok natin in the first place,” the Vice President added.
(What we should study is not only the decision to enter into an agreement but also on how we go out of the agreement, this should also be studied intently. The reason for terminating the agreement should not be petty, not whimsical in the first place.)
Robredo did not mention it, but one of the last straws that led Duterte to rescind from the VFA was the cancellation of Senator Ronald dela Rosa’s US visa. Observers speculated that the visa cancellation was due to Dela Rosa’s role in the drug war and the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima, back when he was Duterte’s police chief.
On Monday, the Senate adopted a resolution from Senate President Vicente Sotto III, asking the Supreme Court (SC) to clarify its role in the VFA termination — something that Robredo agreed with.
“Fully agree ako doon sa Senate resolution, kasi iyong pagtalikod sa isang agreement with a foreign partner, hindi ito basta-basta. Noong pinasok ito, mahabang usapin iyong pinagdaanan, mahabang pag-aaral iyong pinagdaanan. Hindi ganoong kadali iyong pagdesisyon lang na basta tatalikuran,” she noted.
(I fully agree with the Senate resolution, because turning back in an agreement with a foreign partner is not something to be taken lightly. When we entered this, it was not an easy route, a lot of studies were needed. It is not that easy to get away from this.)
“Nararapat lang na tanungin ng Senado iyong Supreme Court na ano ba talaga iyong papel ng Senado pagdating sa pag-abrogate ng mga agreements, considering na kasali sila sa pag-approve,” she said.
(It is only right that the Senate asks the Supreme Court what the Senate’s role is in terms of abrogating agreements, considering that they [Seante] were included in the bodies that approved it.)
The VFA termination has drawn mixed reactions from both the opposition and the administration. On one hand, militant groups who have been critical of Duterte’s government said that the VFA termination is a welcome development as it ends the United States’ interference in the country’s military affairs.
However, some opposition groups also slammed Duterte’s move, as this may expose the country to terrorist attacks and, possibly, a more aggressive stance from China on the West Philippine Sea issue.
Former SC Associate Justice Antonio Carpio in a forum about the VFA last Friday said that the US presence has been a deterrent to the Asian superpower’s advance in the disputed region.
Meanwhile, former Defense Secretary Orly Mercado said in the same forum that he believes the military want the VFA in place, as it aids them in their work — whether in counterterrorism or relief and rescue operations during times of calamity.
Edited by JPV
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