DOJ to assess impact of scrapping VFA to other US military deals

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 27 2020 12:00 PM

Philippine and US marines simulate an amphibious landing as part of the annual joint military exercise in San Antonio, Zambales on May 9, 2018. Ted Aljibe, AFP

MANILA - Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday his agency would expand its study on the possible termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement following orders from Malacañang.

Guevarra earlier said the DOJ would submit its memo on the termination of the VFA to President Rodrigo Duterte by Monday. 

The memo would cover "the procedure for termination only, not the wisdom of the executive action," he said.

But with the new instruction, Guevarra said they would now include possible impact of the termination of the VFA on foreign relations and other agreements the Philippines has with the United States, such as the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

"Yung sa legal side, madali lang. 'Yung impact assessment ang kailangan ng masusing pag-aaral," he told reporters via a text message Monday.

The VFA allows the US to retain jurisdiction over American military personnel accused of committing crimes in the Philippines except if the crimes are of particular importance to the Philippines.

EDCA allows the United States to rotate troops in the Philippines for extended stays and allows the US to build and operate facilities on Philippine bases, for both American and Philippine forces, but not permanently. 

MDT, on the other hand, assures both the Philippines and the US that they will support each other in case of an attack from another party.

Guevarra said he would ask to convene the Cabinet cluster on Justice and Security and/or the VFA commission for an "in-depth and comprehensive impact assessment" but could not say how long this will take.

"The timeframe depends on how soon the Cabinet cluster or the VFA Commission can convene," he added.

Included in the Cabinet cluster are the Department of National Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, National Bureau of Investigation, Office of the Executive Secretary and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

Duterte threatened the termination of the VFA following the cancellation of former PNP chief and now-Senator Bato dela Rosa's US visa over his involvement in the anti-drug war campaign, which has killed more than 20,000 drug suspects in the Philippines.