President Rodrigo Duterte is serious about terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), y’all.
Just a few days after he asked the Justice Department to submit a review of the likely impact of canceling the decades-old military agreement with the United States, Duterte told reporters last night that he will fulfill his promise, and has even forbidden his Cabinet members from going to the States as a middle finger to the American government.
“I am terminating. I was not joking,” the president said.
“I will not allow any Cabinet member to go there at this time. No Cabinet member should be allowed to go to the United States. So that we limit our contract in whatever aspect of international relations… like a boycott,” Duterte added.
The president said his decision to terminate the pact was spurred by recent U.S. legislation refusing entry to government officials involved in the ongoing detention of opposition Senator Leila de Lima. A separate U.S. Senate resolution also calls on the executive branch to impose sanctions on Filipino officials involved in human rights violations under the Global Magnitsky Act.
These resolutions may have contributed to the widely publicized cancellation of pro-administration Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s American visa. The U.S. embassy did not give dela Rosa an explanation, but he was directly involved in both jailing de Lima and the president’s bloody anti-drug campaign in his former capacity as police chief.
It was word that dela Rosa’s American visa had been canceled that first prompted Duterte to threaten to terminate the VFA, which maintains U.S. jurisdiction over crimes committed by American soldiers in the Philippines.
“They said it was just because of my whim, [but] it started when they mentioned about a resolution in the U.S. Senate. They were trying to figure out who are the persons who will be barred from entering, so back then my mind was already thinking,” Duterte maintained last night.
He claimed, however, that canceling the VFA was something he was doing “not only for dela Rosa, but for every Filipino.”
Leftist groups have long called for the cancellation of the VFA, saying that granting the U.S. jurisdiction over criminal cases involving American servicemen has led to suspects evading justice. However, even they questioned the president’s motives when the move was first announced.
Last week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said he had already begun the process of canceling the VFA, a move that some critics say will be detrimental to U.S.-Philippine relations.
This article, ‘Like a boycott’: Duterte forbids Cabinet members from traveling to US, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!