Duterte puts EDCA under review, threatens to cut US ties
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte said he is putting under review the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the US, threatening to cut ties with its treaty ally as he hurts from its opposition to his war on drugs.
Duterte demanded to see the signature of former president Benigno Aquino III in the document that was signed in 2014 by former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg. The deal, later declared constitutional by the Supreme Court, was meant to increase the rotational presence of Americans in the country by allowing them to build facilities and preposition assets inside Philippine military bases.
"May I remind the Americans, itong (this) EDCA, it is an official document but it's only signed by an aide and Gazmin. It does not bear the signature of the President of the Republic of the Philippines, Aquino. Walang pirma si Aquino (Aquino has no signature)," Duterte said on Sunday, October 2, at a speech in Bacolod during the opening of the 37th MassKara Festival at the public plaza.
"Better think twice now because I would be asking you to leave the Philippines altogether," Duterte said.
"After review of that document and if I find that there is no signature... If you cannot produce a signature bearing the permit to conduct.... war games..." Duterte added. He earlier declared he wanted this week's war games with the US to be the last.
But the agreement's Instrument of Ratification might help settle the issue for Duterte.
Dated June 6, 2014, it bears President Aquino's name, ratifying and confirming the articles and clauses of EDCA. (FACT CHECK: Was EDCA not signed by Aquino?)
EDCA was negotiated when the Philippines, under the previous administration, sought the assistance of the US in defending its maritime terrorities in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The Supreme Court declared the agreement constitutional after petitions filed against it over claims that the deal is in reality a basing agreement that required the ratification of the Senate. Prior to this, 15 senators voted against EDCA, but conceded the High Tribunal had the final say on it.
Duterte's pronouncements on EDCA were preceded by his complaints about US criticism of his war on drugs and declarations of new plans to strengthen alliances with China and Russia.
"I will give a policy statement in the coming days. Ibibigay ko sa inyo. Mumurahin ko talaga sila. Kung kayong mga Americano, galit kayo sa akin, galit din ako sa inyo (I will give it to you. I will curse them. If you Americans are angry at me, I am also angry at you)," Duterte stated.
He digressed to apologize to the Jews about his remarks on Hitler, and then continued to blame the international media for supposedly twisting his statements.
The President also maintained that he did not curse US President Barack Obama. His comments about the US president prompted Obama to cancel their scheduled meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Laos last September.
In his speech, Duterte then talked about two groups in Mindanao that he said refuses to talk peace with his administration because of the presence of US troops in the island. He identified the Abu Sayyaf Group and the "Tabligh," a group of Islamic scholars.
"May isang grupo na hindi ko talaga madala. Ang Abu Sayyaf, pati mga scholars. 'Yung mga Tabligh? Parang Knights of Columbus ng Katoliko. 'Di ko talaga maconvince.... (There is a group I cannot convince, the Abu Sayyaf and the scholars of Tabligh. They're like the Knights of Columbus of the Catholics/) 'As long as the Americans are in Mindanao, we will talk to you but we will not negotiate with you about peace,'" Duterte said.
"That prompted me to say there will be a time that I may ask the Americans to leave Mindanao to enable me to connect with them and to talk. Maybe they will decide to negotiate," Duterte said.
He continued: "Alam mo itong mga Americano... Sabi ko, I will open up another front sa ating foreign policy. Kung gaano kabastos ang ginawa mo, binabastos mo ako. Well, sabi ko, hiwalay-hiwalay na lang tayo (You know these Americans... I said I will open up another front in our foreign policy. How you have been insulting... You have been insulting me. Well, I said, we can just part ways)," Duterte said.
Duterte's speech suggested he has not made up his mind, but that he is already losing patience with the Americans. "There are 24 hours in a day. If that bell tolls for the 25th hour because it is an extra day when there is none, it will toll the bells to sound your knell of grief. 'Yan ang mensahe ko sa Amerikano (That is my message to the Americans)."
This message was followed by his pronouncements on EDCA.
Duterte has been defending his war on drugs in speeches around the country and various military bases, insulting countries and groups that have spoken against it such as the US, United Nations, and the European Union. His anti-drugs campaign has been linked to at least 3,000 killings. – with reports from Marchel P. Espina in Bacolod City/Rappler.com