Dela Rosa 'bothered' over VFA cancellation notice

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 11 2020 07:31 PM

MANILA - Philippine Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa on Tuesday said he is "bothered" by the government's official notification to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with its longtime ally the United States.

"Medyo bothered din ako kahit papaano dahil parang lumalabas na I am the reason of it all, lalo na sa mga tao na di makaintindi. They are there to crucify you," said Dela Rosa, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte whose US visa cancellation prompted the country's top official to order the VFA termination.

("I am somehow a bit bothered because it appears that I am the reason of it all, especially to people who don't seem to understand.)

The Department of Foreign Affairs sent formal notice earlier in the day to the US embassy in Manila on the Philippines' intent to terminate the VFA, which was signed in 1998 to govern the conduct of American troops in the country.

The embassy viewed Manila's action as "a serious step with significant implications" for the two countries' alliance, even as it assured Washington's "commitment to the friendship between our two peoples."

The Philippines and U.S. are bound by a 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, on which the VFA and the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement are anchored.

Dela Rosa said his US visa was only the "final straw" that triggered Duterte to scrap the VFA as Washington's frequent meddling in the country's domestic issues is what really angers the President.

"'Di masabi na knee-jerk reaction kasi matagal na niya pinag-isipan. So, mahirap na mabago ang desisyon pag matagal na nya pinag-isipan," he said.

("It can't be said as a knee-jerk reaction because he has long thought about this already. So, it's really difficult to change that decision.")

"It was an accummulation of mga disrespect na ginawa ng kabila dito sa atin. So, yun na ang nangyari," added the senator who was the first national police chief appointee of Duterte.

("It was an accumulation of the display of disrespect by the other party to us. That's what happened.")

The reason for Dela Rosa's visa cancellation was unclear, but he surmised said it may be linked to his role in the Duterte government's anti-drugs campaign, which several US officials have criticized.

"Sabi nga nila (As they say), it's better to have a Philippines be run like hell by Filipinos than run like heaven by Americans," Dela Rosa said.

"In Tagalog, mas mabuti na yung bansang Pilipinas na kalat-kalat ang patakbo, pero Filipino ang nagpapatakbo, kaysa yung Pilipinas na maganda ang takbo pero pinapakialam ng mga hindi Filipino o banyaga," he said.

("In Tagalog, it's better for the Philippine nation to be run like hell by Filipinos, than having a well-governed Philippines that's constantly meddled into by non-Filipinos or foreigners.") 

"'Di ko sinasabi na nagkakalat tayo ngayon. Basta tayo, we take care of our future. We take charge of our own destiny. Let us not depend on them," he added.

("I'm not saying that we are running like hell now. We just take care of our future. We take charge of our own destiny. Let us not depend on them.")

Under the VFA, the termination will only take effect 180 days after a party has notified the other of its intent.