“The day (January 29) I said it, was the day I decided it should be terminated.”
Thus did President Rodrigo Roa Duterte aka Digong declare when he said he wanted the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States scrapped.
Surely, Digong’s foreign secretary, Teodoro “Tweeterboy” Locsin, Jr. knew this.
Why then did he appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and categorically stated that the Agreement should undergo “vigorous review”?
Wasn’t that a direct contradiction of what his Boss wants? Does it not stand to reason that he should have defended the President’s expressed wish?
At the Committee hearing, Locsin also said that he had prepared the notice of VFA termination but had not sent it yet to the US.
“I will send it upon the direct personal order of the President and no one else,” he said.
Question is did Locsin seek instructions from Digong before appearing before the Senate committee? That would have been the prudent thing to do, wouldn’t it?
Apparently, he did not, because shortly after the Senate hearing, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo announced:
“PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) is instructing ES (Executive Secretary) to tell SFA (Secretary of Foreign Affairs) to send the notice of termination to the US government… PRRD also is scheduled to talk [on the] phone with (US) President (Donald) Trump anytime.”
Panelo did not say what the two would talk about.
It’s true that Panelo’s announcement was later tagged by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as fake news, saying that it was Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea himself who told him that no order from Duterte has YET been issued. That does not mean Panelo lied, does it? He is not that stupid.
Whether or not Digong’s order has been relayed to Medialdea is immaterial. The proper thing Locsin should have done was to justify and defend before the Senate committee the President’s decision to abrogate the VFA.
In any case, pending clarification of the matter, preferably by Digong himself, people have begun wondering why Digong’s instruction, as Panelo said, would be coursed through the Executive Secretary and not given directly to Locsin who said he will send the notice of termination to the US only “upon the direct personal order of the President and no one else”.
Is that the standard operating procedure (SOP)? Or is there a hidden message there somewhere in the President’s supposed order for the notice of termination to be coursed through the Executive Secretary?
People are also asking what Digong will do after Locsin contradicted his decision to scrap the VFA, especially after the latter initially praised it as a “good move”. Firing Locsin for disloyalty would seem logical… unless Digong has compelling reasons not to.
On the other hand, many believe that if Locsin’s “vigorous review” stance on the VFA was made out of a firm personal conviction, then he should have resigned first, out of delicadeza, before attending the Senate committee hearing.
Let’s watch what Digong does.
THE MDT IS A “DEFLATED BALLOON”
During the Senate hearing, Locsin said “terminating the VFA will negatively impact the Philippines’ defense and security arrangements as well as the overall bilateral relations of the Philippines with the US and perhaps even on the sub-regional and multilateral level.”
Did it ever occur to him that the President must have already considered those possible consequences before arriving at his decision? He should give his Boss more credit than that.
If the US chooses to begrudge us for trying to promote and protect our sovereignty, so be it. Besides, we have other options such as developing and nurturing bilateral and friendly relations with other world powers like China and Russia as Digong had been doing from day one.
Locsin also said the VFA “ensures operability” of EDCA and the MDT. Without it, the last two would have no practical relevance.
Again, he doesn’t seem to realize that that is the ultimate objective of the President’s foreign policy thrust, i.e., to free ourselves from relying on the “whims and caprices” of a foreign power. Ergo, the goal to get rid of foreign troops and military bases in the country.
“It has been proposed to abrogate the VFA with the US. It has also been said that the mutual defense treaty and presumably the EDCA are to remain in place, that is not entirely up to us,” Locsin added.
Firstly, he should not forget that it was Digong who proposed the VFA abrogation.
Secondly, it is true that retaining the MDT and the EDCA is not entirely up to us. But we can terminate both unilaterally which would be consistent with the President’s ultimate objective. How many times has Digong said he doesn’t want any military alliance with any foreign power, including China and Russia?
Again, doesn’t Locsin know that? Where has he been all this time? Tweeting?
“The Mutual Defense Treaty without the VFA and EDCA may be compared to a deflated balloon … more suitable as a shower cap than a prophylactic against foreign aggression,” Locsin further averred. (There he goes again, with his “poetic” language.)
But the MDT IS a “deflated balloon” or a “piece of paper”, as has been proven in the past!
Finally, Locsin said scrapping the VFA could compromise the “robust” economic ties between the two countries. That is up to Washington. The US is no longer our number one trading partner. Besides, the American businessman will go and remain only where profit is made, notwithstanding their government’s policy.
Will Washington impose sanctions against us? Perhaps do a Nicolas Maduro (of Venezuela) against us? But we do not have a Juan Guaido!
Again, that’s up to the US. We have other options which is precisely the reason Digong has been trying to get rid of the suffocating embrace of the US.
Now that President Digong has made his final decision on the termination of the VFA, it would seem that the Senate no longer has to discuss it.
Instead, it should make better use of its time and resources tackling, among others, the proposal of the President to coordinate with the House of Representatives in passing a law that would replace the present net tax collection system to a gross taxation one.
Digong’s proposal is not only sensible and doable. More importantly, as he said, it would reduce, if not eliminate, corruption in the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Perhaps it would be best if Digong were to certify to Congress the urgent passage of such a bill.
From an internet friend:
A typical macho man married a typical good looking lady, and after the wedding, he laid down the following rules:
“I’ll be home when I want, if I want, what time I want and I don’t want any hassle from you. I expect a great dinner on the table, unless I tell you I won’t be home for dinner. I’ll go hunting, fishing, boozing and card playing with my old buddies, and don’t you give me a hard time about it. Those are my rules. Any comments?”
His new bride said, “No, that’s fine with me. Just understand that there will be sex in this house at seven every night, whether you are here or not.”