No idle threat

January 24, 2020
Rodrigo Roa Duterte
Rodrigo Roa Duterte

MAKING good his threat made Thursday evening, President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the start of the process of terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, Malacañang said Friday.

“Kasi tinanong ko sya kagabi, when will the process start?” Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said, referring to the termination of the VFA.

“’Tonight,’” Panelo said, quoting the President.

Duterte had threatened to terminate the VFA if the US does not “correct” its cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa’s U.S. visa.

Dela Rosa on Wednesday disclosed his U.S. visa had been canceled and was told he can re-apply to secure a U.S. visa again.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he has already instructed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to “start the process” of terminating the country’s accord with the U.S.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirmed President Duterte has already ordered the Department of Justice to start the process of terminating the military agreement with the United States.

“All I can say is that the DOJ has been tasked to study the proper procedure to terminate the VFA. We are doing it now,” Guevarra said in a message when asked to comment on the President’s threat to scrap the agreement following the cancelation of Senator Dela Rosa’s United States visa.

Recently, US President Donald Trump signed into law the US 2020 budget that included a provision banning jailers of Senator Leila de Lima from setting foot on American soil

A provision on “Prohibition on Entry” stated that the US Secretary of State “shall apply subsection (c) to foreign government officials about whom the Secretary has credible information have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment of... de Lima who was arrested in the Philippines in 2017.”

Likewise, the provision, an amendment to the 2020 State and foreign operations appropriations bill, banned government officials from Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia over the “wrongful detention” of American citizens or staff of a US diplomatic mission.

De Lima, who is now detained at the PNP Custodial Center on charges related to illegal drugs, earlier identified Filipino officials involved in her allegedly wrongful incarceration.

US Senators Richard Durbin (Illinois) and Patrick Leahy (Vermont) sought the amendment to the 2020 state and foreign operations appropriations bill.

It was approved by the Senate appropriations committee and House of Representatives and was included in the final 2020 appropriations bill.

De Lima identified some of her jailers as President Duterte, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, online bloggers Mocha Uson, Sass Rogando Sasot, and RJ Nieto.

De Lima also named the following former and incumbent officials: former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Solicitor General Jose Calida, Public Attorney Office Chief Persida Acosta, Sandra Cam, Dante Jimenez, and Congressmen Rey Umali and Rudy Fariñas.

De Lima is facing charges of conspiracy to commit illegal drugs trade at Branches 205, 206 and 256 of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.

Around 40 prosecution witnesses have testified against her, including former Bureau of Corrections officer in charge Rafael Ragos and Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who used to head the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police.

The former chair of the Commission on Human Rights who had been critical of Duterte’s brutal anti-drug campaign has maintained that the drug charges against her were all fabrications and politically motivated.

With Hector Lawas