MANILA - Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Sunday insisted there was "neither contradiction nor inconsistency" among cabinet officials' statements on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.
This was after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Saturday branded as 'fake news' Panelo's earlier statement that President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered cabinet officials to notify the United States on its intent to terminate the VFA.
"He said, and I quote him [Duterte], 'I will instruct the Executive Secretary (Salvador Medialdea) to tell the DFA Secretary (Teodoro Locsin Jr) to send notice of termination to the US government,'" Panelo said on Friday.
But on Saturday, Lorenzana said Medialdea himself said there was no such order yet.
“Yes, according to Sec. Medialdea! None. Nada. Zilch. Awan. Wala! Anggapo,” said Lorenzana.
In a statement on Sunday, Panelo played down the differing statements on the issue by saying he "was merely quoting the President."
"To be clear, this representation did not say that the directive of the President to the Executive Secretary has already been issued or given," Panelo said.
The Palace spokesperson said the President was "using the future tense."
"If the President has not given his instruction yet, then the statements of Executive Secretary Medialdea and Secretary Lorenzana are accurate."
But Panelo said this does not mean that what he announced about the President's decision with regard to the VFA was "inaccurate or untrue."
"It simply means that the Executive Secretary has yet to receive the directive from the President," Panelo said.
Panelo insisted that there was "no internal clash within the President's Cabinet on the situation" and that officials remained united with regards to Duterte's policies.
Duterte last month threatened to terminate the VFA over Washington’s cancellation of Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa’s visa.