Senate leaders urge Duterte: Reconsider cancellation of VFA

Katrina Domingo and Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 03 2020 05:18 PM

MANILA - Senate leaders on Monday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his plan to unilaterally cancel the Visiting Forces Agreement, saying the legislative chamber should first study how scrapping the accord could affect the Philippine economy and security.

The Senate needs to probe how the Philippines' "intelligence information sharing, military aid and financing, and technical assistance" can be affected by the executive's planned withdrawal from the VFA, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senator Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senate Committee on National Defense and Security chair Panfilo Lacson said in a resolution.

"A careful deliberation of these matters must be taken into account before finally arriving at a decision which will ultimately affect not only the security and economy of the Philippines but also that of our neighboring countries in the Asia Pacific region," read Senate Resolution 312.

"It is the VFA which gives continued relevance to the Mutual Defense Treaty (MTD)," it added.

The MDT guarantees that the United States and the Philippines will come to the aid of the other should one country be the subject of an attack. The Philippine government under former president Benigno Aquino III also crafted the Enhance Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) to further enhance the VFA.

"The Senate should be given the opportunity to conduct a review and assessment of the impact of the withdrawal on the country's security and economy," the resolution read.

"As a policy-making body, the Senate should likewise give its view and opinion on the repercussions that the said unilateral withdrawal will entail to the existing MDT and the EDCA with the US," it said.

The resolution was filed two days ahead of a scheduled Senate review of the VFA.

Last month, Duterte ordered executive agencies to begin the unilateral abrogation of the VFA shortly after the US revoked the 10-year, multiple entry visa of his long-tie ally Senator Ronald Dela Rosa.

Dela Rosa was Duterte's first appointed police chief who led the government's brutal war on drugs that left thousands of suspected drug users and peddlers killed.

Senator Richard Gordon said he would support the resolution, noting that "sensitive" contracts should always be subject to oversight.

"Hindi naman namin uutusan ang Presidente na, 'Wag mo gawin 'yan.' Bawal yun," Gordon said.

"Ang issue dito ngayon puwede o kaya ba ng Senado na sabihan [ang executive] na, 'Bago ninyo tanggalin 'yan, konsultahin ninyo muna kami,'" he said.