President Rodrigo Duterte will most likely make an official directive on Monday about the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States (US), Malacañang said on Sunday.
The President would send a formal written order to Executive Secretary (ES) Salvador Medialdea, directing the latter to instruct Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to send a formal notice to the US about the Philippines’ decision to abrogate the VFA, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
“Kailangan mo syempre, meron executive document or whether in writing yung instruction sa isang opisyal mo. Hindi naman pwedeng verbal verbal lang (Of course, you need an executive document or a written order to relay your instruction to your official. Verbal order cannot be accepted),” he said in an interview with dzIQ.
“Hintayin natin dumating ang Monday bukas pagdating ni Presidente. Siyempre, kailangan mo nang may magta-type nun. May magdadala sa opisina ni ES (Let’s wait Monday when the President returns in Manila. Of course, someone is needed to type the written order and transmit it to the office of ES),” Panelo added.
His statement came after his recent announcement has sown confusion over the President’s latest directive.
Panelo first announced on Friday that Duterte, through Medialdea, has directed Locsin to transmit Manila’s formal notification to Washington about the revocation of the VFA, which was signed by the two countries on Feb. 10, 1998.
However, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Saturday downplayed Panelo’s announcement as “fake news.”
The Palace official maintained that the President is already determined to scrap the VFA.
He added that Duterte changing his mind about the termination of VFA lies in the “realm of speculation.”
“Ilang beses ko bang sasabihin sa inyo na desidido siya (How many times do I have to tell you that he is already decided)?” Panelo said.
The VFA gives US troops the privilege to be exempted from passport and visa regulations, and use their permits and licenses in the Philippines.
Under the VFA, the US also keeps its jurisdiction over American military personnel who committed crimes in the Philippines, unless the offenses are punishable in the host country.
Duterte was forced to rescind the VFA, after the US cancelled the visa of his staunch ally, former Philippine National Police chief and now Senator Ronald dela Rosa.
The VFA will be deemed terminated 180 days after the Philippines sends a formal notice to the US.
No phone call with Trump yet
Panelo also announced on Friday that the President is set to have a phone call with US President Donald Trump “anytime soon.”
In his latest remarks, the Palace official said Duterte has yet to talk with Trump.
He also clarified that the impending phone conversation between the two leaders was not initiated by Duterte.
“’Yung pag-uusap nila, ano lang ‘yun, expected pero walang klaro kung mag-uusap sila o hindi. Parang nagparinig lang siguro na gustong kausapin siya. Wala pa (Their phone conversation is expected but it is not clear whether it will push through or not. There was an indication that Trump wants to talk to Duterte. But it has yet to happen),” Panelo said.
“Definitely hindi si Presidente ang nag-initiate nun. Hindi ko alam kung si President Trump. Pwedeng ‘yung mga top alter egos niya. Tandaan mo yung magre-react ang kabila kasi tayo ang maga-abrogate eh (Definitely, it’s not the President who initiated it. I don’t know if it’s President Trump or his top alter egos. Remember, they’re reacting because we’re abrogating VFA),” he added.
Senate review ‘not useless’
Despite the President’s decision to terminate the 22-year-old VFA, the Senate insisted to proceed with the review of the agreement.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the Senate foreign relations panel, on Saturday said majority of senators sought the review of the VFA.
Panelo said there was nothing wrong with the Senate’s move.
“They’re not prohibited from reviewing any treaty or executive agreement para makapagbigay sila ng rekomendasyon (so they can give a recommendation) as a body,” he said.
He said the senators’ review was “not useless,” since their possible findings could prove that the President made the right decision.
If the findings say otherwise, the Chief Executive will not hesitate to conduct a study, Panelo said.
“The President will also study kung tama yung kanilang punto de vista (if they personal judgment is right),” Panelo, also Chief Presidential Legal Adviser, said. (PNA)