'Galit si Presidente': VFA can be scrapped without Senate approval, says Panelo

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2020 09:27 AM | Updated as of Jan 24 2020 12:39 PM

BACOLOD CITY (UPDATE) - President Duterte can scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement even without the approval of the Senate, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Thursday.

This, after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened that he will end the VFA if the US government does not reverse the cancellation of Sen. Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa's US visa.

"Because it (VFA) is an executive agreement so he can cancel it without the approval of the Senate," Panelo said.

Dela Rosa, a former Philippine National Police chief who spearheaded the Duterte administration's anti-illegal drug campaign, earlier confirmed news that his US visa was canceled.

He said the cancellation might be linked to his supposed involvement in the extrajudicial killings (EJK) allegedly perpetrated by police under Duterte’s intensified campaign against narcotics.

US senators earlier voted for a Senate resolution that seeks sanctions against Philippine officials involved in extrajudicial killings as well as the detention of Senator Leila De Lima.

Panelo said the US should not intervene with the issues of the Philippines.

"Can you imagine they have the gall to tell us what to do with our own citizens. Eh, sobra na 'yan kaya galit si Presidente,” he said.

Panelo said cancellation of the VFA will not affect migrant workers.

"I think the US should be concerned about this decision of the president because its strongest ally in the region is reacting against it," he said. 

Some senators aired different views about the President's decision. 

On Thursday, Senator Panfilo Lacson lamented the move to terminate the VFA over Washington's cancellation of Dela Rosa's visa.

"Visa is a conditional authorization given by a country to visiting foreigners which may be granted, cancelled, and even denied. The VFA is a bilateral agreement between the Philippines and the US that went through some back and forth discussions prior to Senate ratification but not without intense plenary deliberation," Lacson told reporters in a text message.

Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III meanwhile said Duterte's threat would "make the US Senate rethink their perception about our justice system."

On Twitter, Senator Koko Pimentel said the agreement between the US and the Philippines should always be subject to review.

"The President may cancel it with or without a reason. He can even say that times have changed and it is no longer needed by the country," Pimentel said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. lauded the President's statement.

"Visas fall under US Justice Department in the Executive Branch. Either they're serious about US-PH military alliance or not. They can have de Lima after her trial. In fact they can pass a law making her a US citizen and part of US military so she is covered by VFA," he said. -with reports from Nico Delfin, ABS-CBN News