DOJ to submit study on VFA termination to Duterte on Monday- Guevarra

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 25 2020 02:08 PM

Philippine Navy personnel watch as the US Navy's multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Wasp cruises in the background during the Balikatan 2019 on Thursday off San Antonio, Zambales. Balikatan is one of annual war games under the Visiting Forces Agreement, which President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to scrap after one of his allies and ex-drug war head, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, said the US canceled his visa." Bulit Marquez, AP Photo/File

MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has finished its study on procedure for the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the United States and the Philippines, its chief said Saturday.

This followed President Rodrigo Duterte's threat to cancel the treaty if the US does not restore the visa of his long-time ally Sen. Ronald dela Rosa. 

"I'm done with the study on the procedure for terminating the VFA, but I have to submit first my memo to PRRD [President Rodrigo Roa Duterte] on Monday," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

He declined to give details about the memo.

Government lawyers only dealt with procedure on the termination of the 1999 military deal, which governs the conduct of American military activities in the Philippines. 

"We shall answer such questions as: is the VFA a treaty or an executive agreement? If it’s a treaty, is Senate concurrence required for termination? Who will give the notice of termination? Is it necessary to state any ground for termination?" he said.

Asked if the termination would have an impact on other military agreements with the US, such as the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), Guevarra said it would a need a separate study.

The 1951 MDT requires one party to defend the other in case of external aggression, while the 2014 EDCA, an executive agreement, allows greater rotational presence of US troops in the country.

"Possible effects on the MDT and EDCA may have to be studied separately by the DND [Department of National Defense] and DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs], but the DOJ will be ready to assist," he said.

Dela Rosa had bared earlier this week that his 10-year US visa was canceled for a still unclear reason. 

He suspected the cancellation of his visa was linked to his role as chief implementer of Duterte's war on drugs, which has led to the death of more than 5,500 drug suspects who allegedly resisted arrest. 

He later revealed the US visa of another police official involved in the drug war was also canceled. 

ONE LETTER

For activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), if the President is truly serious in scrapping the military accord, one letter would suffice.

"If the Duterte regime is truly serious in terminating the VFA, then it merely needs to inform the US government in writing of Duterte’s desire to terminate the agreement and wait 180 days for it to be effective. That is the process under the agreement," Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said Saturday.

"Let’s have it then. No fanfare, no ceremonies. One letter will suffice. This will be the true test of the regime's seriousness. Unless negotiations are already underway to get Bato's US visa back. Then all this is just posturing," the group added.

Bayan, which has long been calling for the termination of the VFA, reiterated that it should be revoked not because for Dela Rosa.

"The VFA is an affront to our sovereignty, an unequal pact that allows the forward deployment of US troops in the Philippines to boost America's military might in the region," it said.

"The issue is supposed to be national sovereignty, not one senator's cancelled visa and hurt feelings," the group added. - With a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News