MANILA - Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa expressed no qualms Wednesday over the Philippines' termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement with its longtime ally the United States, saying Washington has been "disrespecting" and "intruding" Manila's sovereignty.
Speaking to radio DZMM, the lawmaker downplayed the benefits of the VFA, which governs the conduct of Americans soldiers while in the Philippines.
"The advantages were beneficial to both parties. They learned from us and we learned from them," he said.
"Kung sabihin mo na meron silang binigay sa atin na hardware, na ganito, na gano'n, wala. Hindi sila nagbibigay," he added.
(If you're saying that they are giving us [military] hardware, like this, like that, nothing. They don't give anything.)
The senator, who served as national police chief when President Rodrigo Duterte assumed power in 2016, slammed the US government for using foreign aid that only benefited them.
During a Senate inquiry that sought to review the military accord of both nations, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the American troops "charged" their training expenses as foreign aid, Dela Rosa said.
"Gano'n kasalbahe 'yong mga tao na 'yon. Igastos nila sa sundalo nila tapos sabihin nila na tulong sa Pilipinas?" he said.
(That's how bad they are. They used it to benefit their soldiers, but they said it's an aid for the Philippines?)
Dela Rosa reiterated that Duterte's decision to terminate the VFA, which the US had said is a "serious step with significant implications for the US-Philippines alliance," was not solely because of him.
"It was a series, accumulation of disrespect, pakikialam, intrusion sa ating sovereignty na ginagawa ng mga Amerikano," he said.
(It was a series, accumulation of disrespect and intrusion of our sovereignty by the Americans.)
The US government's decision to cancel his US visa, the senator said, was "the last straw that broke the camel's back."
"Last na lang 'yong sa akin. Kaya 'yon na ang pinaka-tipping point kaya nag-decide siya nang gano'n," Dela Rosa said.
(My case was the last straw. It was the tipping point that prompted him [Duterte] to decide that way.)
As police head from 2016 to 2018, Dela Rosa was chief enforcer of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs that led to the death of thousands of people. American lawmakers criticized the harsh campaign, saying it disregarded human rights.
At a Senate hearing this month, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Manila received nearly $1 billion (P50.73 billion) in military equipment, training, aid and funding for various projects from the US from 2016 to 2019.
On Duterte's orders, the foreign affairs department on Feb. 11 formally notified the US government it is withdrawing from the VFA. The abrogation will take effect 180 days after.
The VFA is anchored on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty of Manila and Washington. Another pact, the Enhance Defense Cooperation Agreement, was forged by the two parties in 2014.