Senate leaders lukewarm on proposed VFA review

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 27 2020 08:05 PM

MANILA - Senate leaders on Monday said they were not keen on reviewing the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, saying they did not want to “unnecessarily encroach on the authority of the executive.”

The Senate should “not comment” on President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to rescind from Manila’s decades-old treaty with Washington as the chamber’s opinion will have “no bearing,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters.

“It never emanates from us. So kung ayaw na nila, wala kaming magagawa (So if they don't want it, we can't do anything),” he said.

“Diskarte ng executive 'yan (It's the executive's call). As Senate President, I would rather not indulge whether that is right or wrong,” he said.

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III earlier said he would urge his colleagues to review the agreement which governs the conduct of American troops in the Philippines, after Duterte said the Philippines will pull out from the VFA after the US revoked the visa of Senator Ronald Dela Rosa.

The US Embassy did not give a reason for the cancellation of Dela Rosa’s travel permit, but the former Philippine National Police chief said it might be related to his role in Duterte’s war on narcotics that left thousands of suspected drug users killed.

Senate Committee on National Defense and Security chair Panfilo Lacson said he wants to know Pimentel’s reason for the review before scrutinizing the VFA.

“Gusto ko malaman ano purpose baka mamaya magkaroon pa ng misunderstanding bakit namin rerebyuhin yun (I want to know the purpose because it might lead to a misunderstanding if we review it),” Lacson said.

“Baka mamaya (It may appear later as if) we are unnecessarily encroaching on the authority of the executive,” he said, noting that the Senate cannot introduce amendments to any treaty.

The most senators can do is discuss the issue informally or in a caucus, Sotto said.