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

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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.

Duterte wants assurance from Trump of a hitch-free travel to Washington in face of ban vs PH officials

in News/Tabloid PH News
Duterte wants assurance from Trump of a hitch-free travel to Washington in face of ban vs PH officials
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

Update: JAN 24, 2020 ( 4:39PM ) – https://tabloid.ph/2020/01/24/update-duterte-wont-be-cowed-by-worlds-most-powerful-nation/

Malacanang did not say it directly, but it appears that for President Duterte to accept US President Donald Trump’s invitation, there should be an assurance from Washington that the Philippine leader’s visit to the White House would be hitch free.

This is in the face of Washington’s move to prevent entry of Philippine officials who have a role in the incarceration of Senator Leila de Lima, as demanded by the US Senate.  Already, Senator Ronald dela Rosa confirmed that his US visa had been cancelled. Dela Rosa was the head of the Philippine National Police when de Lima was detained for alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade. The ban against travel of Philippine officials is included in the United States’ 2020 budget law.

Lawyer Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s chief legal counsel and spokesman, told reporters on Thursday (January 23) that the President believes that his presence in the US would not be appreciated by some American senators, and that he might not even be issued a US visa.

Repeating Duterte’s own words, Panelo said: “I do not even know if the US will even issue me a visa, I do not know if I will be allowed entry.” 

Panelo added: “He (Duterte) said he has to ponder over it because he doesn’t want to go there and if he’s already there, some US senators might be unhappy seeing him there.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Trump really wants to meet with Duterte in Washington, which is why another invitation from the White House was sent to Malacanang dated January 9, 2020.

Trump also invited Duterte and other Southeast Asian leaders last November to a US-Asean Summit in Washington in March.

Duterte had repeatedly said that he wouldn’t set foot on American soil, as he declared his pivot to China for the Philippines’ trade and diplomatic stance.

But Panelo said it is now likely that Duterte would accept Trump’s invitation, given certain conditions.

“The ball has been thrown to them then they have to do something about it,” Panelo said. “Let the US receive whatever signals it wants to receive from the statements of the President.” 

Duterte to Iran, Iraq leaders: Keep Filipinos out of harm’s way or else…

in News/Tabloid PH News
Duterte to Iran, Iraq leaders: Keep Filipinos out of harm’s way or else…

President Duterte is ready to ditch his anti-United States sentiment and even side with Washington if Filipinos are hurt in any retaliatory move by Tehran against American soldiers and installations.

This will be the message that Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers Abdullah Mamao will be delivering to the leaders of Iran and Iraq, Duterte’s legal adviser and spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters on Tuesday (January 7).

Panelo said Mamao has been dispatched to the Middle East to personally inform the governments of Iraq and Iran of the “friendly caution” of Duterte.

“Hindi tayo magiging neutral. The President was very specific in saying last night that if the Filipinos are harmed, he will side with the Americans. The President will not sit idly and watch,” Panelo said. As to what action that support to the US would translate into was not detailed by Panelo.

Duterte is known to have pivoted toward China in his diplomatic and trade policies. He didn’t like the criticisms he was getting from the US government over his administration’s bloody war against drugs.

Just recently, he banned US senators from entering the Philippines for espousing the release from prison of Senator Leila de Lima, a known political enemy of Duterte.

The President gathered his Cabinet and security advisers Monday night to discuss the impact of the tension between the US and Iran over the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

The government is preparing to repatriate Filipinos in Middle Eastern areas that would be put in harm’s way should the rift between Tehran and Washington escalate into actual military tussles.

There are around 4 million Filipino workers in the Middle East, and around 6,000 of them are in Iran and Iraq.

Duterte earlier said he fears that “so many lives of our countrymen” could be put in jeopardy. “Kinakabahan ako. Iran seems to be hell-bent on a retaliation, which I think will come. It’s a matter of time. I do not have anything, nary a worry, were it not for a fact that there are a lot of Filipinos there… We need the money. I need it before it actually starts.”

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