Tag archive

Senator Leila De Lima

Locsin defends Duterte’s decision to end VFA

in Entertainment/Tabloid PH Showbiz
Locsin defends Duterte’s decision to end VFA
Photo: EPA-EFE

Although he doesn’t share the Chief Executive’s opinion, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. defended the decision of President Duterte to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States over Washington’s “insult to our sovereignty”.

Locsin said Duterte’s reaction to the “senatorial shit” from the US is warranted and shows that the country has a leader with strong political will.

“We need a President who blows his top when his country gets senatorial ‘shet’ from the US. Let me tell you this, he has the constitutional power and authority to abrogate any treaty for any reason especially an insult to our sovereignty,” the country’s top diplomat said. 

On Friday night (February 7), Malacanang announced that Duterte has already given instruction for Locsin to send the official notice informing Washington that Manila is terminating the two countries’ VFA.

“PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) is instructing ES (Medialdea) to tell SFA (Locsin) to send the notice of termination to the US government,” Duterte’s Spokesman and Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said.

This happened just after the Senate conducted a hearing on the matter, where Locsin said he was only pushing for a review—not termination—of the VFA. 

“The DFA at this point proffers no preference for any of these options, but at this point I think a review, a vigorous review of the Visiting Forces Agreement is called for,” Locsin said in the Senate hearing on the agreement forged in 1999 that governs the conduct of US troops who take part in military exercises in the Philippines.

He added: “While the Philippines has the prerogative to terminate the VFA anytime, the continuance of the agreement is deemed to be more beneficial to the Philippines compared to any benefits were it to be terminated. Our contribution to regional defense is anchored on our military alliance with the world’s last superpower.”

Some senators and other officials also dissuaded the President from terminating the VFA.

Duterte said the cancellation of the US visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa was the last straw that drove him to end the VFA, noting that he first had the idea when the US Senate included in the 2020 budget bill of the US a provision barring the entry of Philippine officials who have something to do with the incarceration of Senator Leila de Lima.

The US senators were demanding the release of de Lima, who, they claim, was a victim of political persecution.

But Locsin said the lesson here for the US Senate was “plead, don’t demand”

Duterte says he already decided to end VFA when US Senate moved to ban entry of PH officials

in News/Tabloid PH News
Duterte says he already decided to end VFA when US Senate moved to ban entry of PH officials
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte takes a bow before the guests during the 69th founding anniversary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) at the DSWD Central Office in Quezon City on January 29, 2020. ALFRED FRIAS/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Duterte clarified that he had long decided to terminate Manila’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with Washington, or right about the time the United States Senate moved to ban the entry of Philippine officials who may have a role in the incarceration of Senator Leila de Lima.

Duterte said on Wednesday night (January 29) that contrary to what his critics are saying, his decision to end the VFA was not prompted by the cancellation of the US visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa, who was the chief of the Philippine National Police when de Lima was detained for alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade. 

“It started when they mentioned the US resolution in the US Senate. Noon pa lang ‘yung utak ko gumagalaw na. Ganoon ako. Hindi ako naghihintay. I just announce late. Pinapauna ko. Pero at that time I decided if they do this; I do it not only for Dela Rosa but for every Filipino,” the Chief Executive stressed.

He made it clear that the decision to terminate the VFA  was not just out of whim.

And to further show how disgusted he is, Duterte ordered the members of the Cabinet to refrain from travelling to the US indefinitely. “I will not allow any Cabinet member to go there at this time.”

To set the tone for the “boycott” on the travel to US, Duterte also rejected the invitation from President Donald Trump for the Philippine leader to attend a meeting in the US with other Southeast Asian heads of state. He is also not sending a representative to the Trump-proposed US-Asean Summit on March 4 in Las Vegas. 

Duterte said he declined the invitation for “strategic, geopolitical considerations.”

The VFA, like the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty, are the military agreements that the Philippines currently has with the US. It will end 180 days after a notice was given by either party. 

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier said the process for terminating the VFA  has started. “The President feels that we cannot sit down and watch idly.”

UPDATE: Duterte won’t be cowed by world’s most powerful nation

in News/Tabloid PH News
Duterte won’t be cowed by world’s most powerful nation
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers a speech after leading the distribution of benefits to former rebels at the San Isidro Central School in Leyte on January 23, 2020. VALERIE ESCALERA/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Duterte again showed that he will not be cowed by the most powerful nation in the world after he decided not just to turn down the offer of US President Donald Trump to visit Washington but also to end the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

These actions from Duterte were in retaliation to the Washington’s travel ban versus Philippine officials who had something to do with the prosecution of opposition Senator Leila de Lima, as contained in the 2020 budget law of the US. Already, the US visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa, the Philippine National Police chief when de Lima was detained, has been cancelled. 

Duterte initially gave Washington one month to reverse dela Rosa’s visa cancellation or the VFA will be terminated by Manila. But on Friday afternoon (January 24), Panelo said the process to terminate the VFA has been started

Panelo said: “The process for terminating the same has started. The President feels that we cannot sit down and watch idly.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said they are of the opinion that the Executive branch can end the VFA on its own, or without waiting for the Senate’s concurrence, similar to what Manila did when the country opted out of the International Criminal Court. “There is a view which I think I shared once—on pulling out of ICC as I did as UN ambassador—that while Senate concurrence is required to make a treaty; none is required to terminate it which is an entirely personal Presidential power. But that’s just a view.”

This view was shared by former Senate President Franklin Drilon and other senators.

The VFA, like the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty, are the existing military agreements that the Philippines currently has with the US. It will end 180 days after a notice was given by either party.

EDITORIAL: Does US Senate Resolution 142 carry weight?

in Editorial/News/Tabloid PH News
Does US Senate Resolution 142 carry weight?
Image Credit: Tabloid PH

Does Resolution 142 passed by the US Senate (or S.Res. 142) carry weight? In Washington, maybe; but in Manila, especially under a maverick Chief Executive like Rodrigo R. Duterte, nada.

The world knows that the Philippines gained its complete independence from America in 1946 through the “Tydings–McDuffie Act”, or the Philippine Independence Act, signed by President Harry S. Truman.

This means that for the Philippines, S.R. 142 should be nothing but an expression of the sense of the US Senate regarding the detention of Senator Leila de Lima, the oft-criticized bloody war against illegal drugs launched by the Duterte administration, and the perceived muzzling of critical press and political opposition in the country.

S.R 142, titled “Condemning the Government of the Philippines for its continued detention of Senator Leila De Lima, calling for her immediate release, and for other purposes”, calls on the Philippine government to immediately release de Lima, “drop all charges against her, remove restrictions on her personal and work conditions, and allow her to fully discharge her legislative mandate, especially as Chair of the Committee on Social Justice.”

It also urges the government of the Philippines to “guarantee the right to the freedom of the press, and to drop all the charges against Maria Ressa and Rappler.” The resolution also calls on the President of the United States to impose sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (subtitle F of title XII of Public Law 114–32822 U.S.C. 2656 note) with respect to—

(A) members of the security forces and officials of the Government of the Philippines responsible for extrajudicial killings; and

(B) officials of the Government of the Philippines responsible for orchestrating the arrest and prolonged detention of Senator De Lima.

There is no way Malacanang would heed these calls of the US Senate. President Duterte had declared too many times that he wouldn’t mind losing the support of Washington and would prefer to be an ally of Beijing.

Not only that, Malacanang had repeatedly said also that the case of de Lima is now in the hands of the Judiciary. Any intervention on the case of de Lima from the Executive Branch, as what S.R. 142 is demanding, would prove the claims that— as mentioned in the resolution— “indeed, she has been the target of partisan persecution”.

President Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, in response to S. R. 142, said de Lima and Ressa “have been criminally charged in accordance with the law. They have availed – and are still availing – of legal remedies for their defense.”

So let the wheels of justice grind. If the prosecution couldn’t prove the guilt of both de Lima and Ressa, they would be freed in due time—with or without S.R. 142. The Philippines is an independent country with an independent judicial system. S.R. 142 should not carry any weight in their cases. Otherwise, the resolution would just be contradicting itself.

Surrenderers near 700 as De Lima refuses to answer Ombudsman query on GCTA IRR

in News/Tabloid PH News
Surrenderers near 700 as De Lima refuses to answer Ombudsman query on GCTA IRR

As of 8 a.m. on Tuesday (September 17), at least 692 convicts that were granted early release purportedly for good behavior have surrendered to authorities, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

These convicts, according to Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete, are among the 1,914 life termers that were freed due to the “erroneous” application of the good conduct time allowance of Republic Act (RA) 10592.

They heeded the call of President Duterte to surrender on or before September 19 or risk becoming the subjects of manhunt operations with accompanying bounty.

Perete said these convicts will have to serve out the remainder of their sentence, especially under the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 10592 that was signed by the Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano on Monday.

The new IRR clearly stated that escapees, habitual delinquents, recidivists and heinous crime convicts are excluded from the application of the GCTA benefits.

Around 22,000 prisoners have been granted early release since 2014 when RA 10592 was implemented.

However, based on the Senate inquiry into the GCTA application, some of these convicts did not deserve to be freed, as some benefited from what is now called “GCTA for sale”. This illegal scheme was uncovered in one of the Senate hearings, after a witness said Bureau of Correction (BuCor) officials demanded P50,000 from her in exchange for the early release of her husband.

Around 30 BuCor officials were already ordered suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman due to alleged involvement in this scheme.

Analysts say the ambiguity of the law and its IRR allowed the liberal application of the GCTA. This prompted the revision of the IRR so rules can be clarified while Congress is working on a revised version of the law.

Senator Leila De Lima, the DOJ secretary when RA 10592’s original IRR was crafted, has been asked by the Ombudsman to comment why they did not clearly exclude heinous crime convicts in the GCTA application.

She answered:  “[I] would like to clarify that I am no longer the Secretary of Justice. I am now a Senator of the Republic. I cannot in my official capacity as a Senator reply to a query that exclusively pertains to official business of the Department of Justice whose present Secretary is Menardo Guevarra.” 

De Lima, added in her three-page letter to the Office of the Ombudsman: “Whatever query you may have regarding the IRR, therefore, may be properly and officially answered by the DOJ and the DILG, being the institutions and agencies responsible for the implementation of said IRR.”

“It is not clear in your letter whether you are requiring me to do so in my personal capacity or in my capacity as Senator. Either way, I find no relevance in either capacities or as former Secretary of Justice to be able to officially annotate on the language of the IRR beyond what it provides in its provisions.”

Go to Top