MANILA, Philippines – “Pansarili lang ang mga desisyon, pati buong Pilipinas dinadamay.” (These decisions are so self-serving, but they affect the entire Philippines.)
On Tuesday, February 11, the Philippines sent its notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to the United States.
The VFA was signed over two decades ago which contains guidelines and conditions for US military and civilian personnel who are temporarily sent to the Philippines. President Rodrigo Duterte has previously threatened to scrap the Agreement on two separate instances: the first in 2016 after the US did not renew an aid package for the Philippines, and the second in January 2020 after the cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s US visa.
Washington recently strengthened its crackdown of human rights violators, as the US Senate foreign relations committee unanimously approved to invoke the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Consequently, the Senator’s visa was voided as he was the primary operator of the President’s brutal war on drugs before he left his post as chief of the Philippine National Police.
Several netizens were astounded by how the decision was mainly prompted by the cancellation of the Senator’s visa, therefore revealing the priorities of the President.
Another concern brought up by a few Filipinos was whether or not the President could unilaterally terminate the VFA, and if this move was an abuse of power. The Duterte government asserts it is within the President’s power to terminate the Agreement, and while the Senate’s concurrence is needed to put the VFA into effect, the same is not needed to end it. (EXPLAINER: Visiting Forces Agreement)
Lastly, netizens were ultimately infuriated with the President prioritizing his personal interests over the welfare of his countrymen.
Prior to the signing of the notice of termination, government officials such as Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr warned against terminating the VFA altogether, as it posed several risks to overall bilateral relations with the US. (FULL TEXT: Locsin on impact assessment of VFA termination)
Officials and experts also feared scrapping the VFA would compromise the country’s security regarding the threat of Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea. (READ: With threats to scrap VFA, Duterte gambles Phillippines’ security)
What are your thoughts on this move? – Rappler.com