MANILA -- Senator Ronald Dela Rosa on Friday distanced himself from President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to end the Philippines' Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, saying he would advise the chief executive to instead "befriend America."
Duterte, who has been vocal about his disdain for the US since he rose to the presidency in 2016, terminated the bilateral accord after Dela Rosa's US visa was revoked.
Dela Rosa - the President's first appointed police chief - said he was scheduled to meet with Duterte next week.
"Magpapasalmat ako na, 'Sir, salamat at gano'n pala ako kaimportante sa iyo.'"
(I will thank him and say, "Sir, thank you for giving that much importance to me.)
"Then sabay na din na, 'Sir, baka puwedeng puntahan mo na 'yong America para fair tayo sa lahat, at ang tingin talaga nila sa ating foreign policy ay neutral at independent... para hindi naman masabi na iba ang ang foreign policy natin ay tilted lang towards China and Russia," he said, referring to US President Donald Trump's invitation for Duterte to attend the US-ASEAN Summit in Las Vegas in March.
(I will also tell him, "Sir, maybe you can go to America so that we will be fair to all countries, and others will not view our foreign policy as tilted only towards to China and Russia.)
"The more friends, the better. Mas marami tayong kaibigan mas maganda. 'Wag natin sila awayin, kaibiganin natin sila," he said.
(The more friends we have, the better. Let us befriend them.)
'DO NOT CRUCIFY ME'
While it was the revocation of his US visa that triggered Duterte to pull out from the VFA, Dela Rosa said he should not be blamed for a decision that was "purely executive."
"Kasalanan ko ba 'yon? Bakit nila ako sisisihin? It's a purely executive decision," the senator said.
(Is that my fault? Why will they blame me? It's a purely executive decision.)
"Never nga ako nagsumbong sa kaniya (Duterte). Never namin pinag-usapan 'yan. 'Wag niyo ako i-crucify sa krus ng VFA," he said.
(I never ranted to him. We never talked about that visa. Do not crucify me.)
Dela Rosa earlier said that the revocation was not just about his US visa, but about a "one-sided foreign relations."
"Hindi ako totally against, pero may k'wan lang ako na hindi nagustuhan... 'yong 'pag magco-commit ng crimes ang sundalo nila dito sa atin, wala tayong jurisdiction. Kukunin lang nila 'yong mga sundalo nila at puwedeng hindi managot sa kasalanang ginawa dito sa atin," he said.
(I am not totally against the VFA but I dont like the provision where we do not have jurisdiction over American soldiers who commit crimes here. They can simply extract their soldiers and they will be absolved from their sins.)
Under the agreement, the US government has jurisdiction over its soldiers who commit crime "unless the crimes are of particular importance to the Philippines."
Despite these reservations, Dela Rosa said the Philippines can still benefit from the VFA.
Filipino soldiers and law enforcers can learn a lot from US troops, he said.
"Matagal na nating kaalyado 'yan. Ako mismo ang dami kong naging schooling sa America na funded by US government. Ang dami kong trabaho dito sa pagkapulis ko na ang aking kasama ay mga counterparts ko from the United States," he said.
(US has been our long-time ally. I, myself, have done a lot of schooling in the US funded by the American government. I have done a lot of police work with my counterparts from the United States.)