I fully support the President’s decision in changing his earlier stand to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement. Whatever underlying conditions there are in arriving at that decision, if it was connected to additional vaccine donations or any other reasons, I’m sure President Rodrigo Duterte was influenced by the interest of the country and our people.
That being said, the termination of the VFA would have done our country’s security situation more harm than good, especially at this time when incursions into our exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea have become more aggressive and unabated.
This is not to mention the continuing threats of terrorism in our country.
We have to accept the reality that we cannot do it alone, and our bilateral agreements with countries having more upgraded militarily capabilities like the United States and even Australia should be put into good use. The VFA is one way to do this.
There you go! Nobody has the monopoly of wisdom regardless of power and authority. The best decisions are those made not out of hubris, but the humility of listening to as many people and trying to get a bit of what they have to say.
At the end of the day, the decision is his to make anyway. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain in listening to others.
What matters most is that our national interest, dignity and self-respect will be upheld.
To the Manila Standard: We wish to set the record straight regarding some points made by Rod Kapunan in his column in the Feb. 20, 2021 issue of the Manila Standard—including his claim that Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson branded as an “extortionist stance” President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement that the United States will “have to pay” if they want the Visiting Forces Agreement done.
It is a no-brainer that my friend from way back, Salvador Panelo, being a member of the President’s Cabinet, will defend him, right or wrong. Hence, I’m willing to give him enough leeway.
That said, Art. VII, Sec. 21 of the 1987 Constitution is clear and unequivocal on the participation of each and every Senator in voting for or against the ratification of a treaty or international agreement, which the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement is.
In fact, official records of the Senate will tell us that the vote on May 27, 1999 was 18-5, without which the same would not have been valid and effective.
More importantly: Whether or not an international agreement or a treaty has already been made valid and effective, it is still wrong to assert that a sitting senator and even an ordinary citizen of this country has no more freedom to express his opinion with something that concerns our national interest.
Malinaw na nakasaad sa Saligang Batas ang karapatan ng Senado sa pagpasok ng ating pamahalaan sa mga pandaigdigang tratado lalo na kung nakasalalay ang pangmatagalang kapakanan at interes ng bansa, katulad ng Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
“I may not be a lawyer like the President. But last time I read the Constitution, a senator has something to do with international agreements. The President should refresh his memory by reading Article VII, Sec. 21 of the 1987 Constitution. It says: No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate,” banggit ni Lacson.
No less than the 1987 Constitution gives senators a say in the Philippines’ international agreements like the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement, especially if they affect the country’s long-term national interest and security.
“I may not be a lawyer like the President. But last time I read the Constitution, a senator has something to do with international agreements. The President should refresh his memory by reading Article VII, Sec. 21 of the 1987 Constitution. It says: No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate,” said Lacson, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense.
Mas epektibo ang sibil, madiplomasya at magalang na paraan ng paghahatid ng mensahe sa isang matagal nang kaalyado gaya ng Estados Unidos, lalo sa usapin tulad ng Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Binanggit ito ni Senador Panfilo Lacson, chairman ng Senate Committee on National Defense, dahil para sa kanya ay hindi dapat presyuhan ang kahalagahan ng VFA sa Pilipinas.
“The President may have used strong words to send his message across to the US. But certainly, there is a more civil and statesmanlike manner to ask for compensation from a longtime ally using the usual diplomatic channels and still get the same desired results,” banggit ni Lacson.
Why use strong words to send a message to a longtime ally when a civil, diplomatic and statesmanlike approach can be more effective?
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson stressed this Sunday as he pointed out one cannot put a price tag on the value of the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement on the Philippines.
“The President may have used strong words to send his message across to the US. But certainly, there is a more civil and statesmanlike manner to ask for compensation from a longtime ally using the usual diplomatic channels and still get the same desired results,” said Lacson, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense.
Such a pronouncement from the President is at the very least, unfortunate. I think there could be a more diplomatic or at least a better way of asking a longtime ally to help us avail of the vaccines for our people without sounding like we are blackmailing our way into it.
Members of the US Congress are within their rights to file any legislative measure under any circumstances. As in our case, it will have to go through the mill of first reading and referral, committee hearings and floor debates.
If adopted and approved, the said bill – H.R. 8313 – will not only be our loss but theirs as well, considering that a major part of the security assistance being extended to the Philippines is used to combat terrorism, which knows no borders and timing. And they know that for a fact.
And since the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is still existing, they may have to resolve that as a legal issue in their deliberations.
In an interview on DWIZ, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
* Anti-Terror Bill to be questioned before the Supreme Court [10:01]
* goals of Senate inquiry into Jolo incident [34:24]
* PH warning vs China over military exercises [40:34]
* special session for Bayanihan 2 [42:39]
First, just so it is clear where I’m coming from: I am not pro- or anti-American, as in actual fact, they took away my US visa a long time ago. Nor am I pro- or anti-Chinese since I have many friends in and out of Beijing.
That said, the President’s change of heart is a welcome development as far as defense and economic security of the country is concerned. The Philippines needs the Visiting Forces Agreement especially now that Chinese intrusions into our territory, particularly in the West Philippines Sea, have become commonplace.
The last thing that we should lose is the balance of power that the USA, among other allies like Australia and other ASEAN neighbors, can provide to suit our national interest and territorial integrity.
It is a no-brainer that we can’t stand on our own and protect ourselves from harassment coming from those intrusions.
The Senate filed a Petition for Declaratory Relief and Mandamus before the Supreme Court on March 9, 2020, seeking a ruling on the need for Senate concurrence in ending treaties such as the VFA. Sen. Ping Lacson, who was among the petitioners, said the petition will be strengthened by Senate Resolution 337. “We’re not filing this petition in our individual capacity as senators but we’re backed by the whole Senate because of SR 337.”
In an interview on DWIZ, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
– lifting of travel ban on Taiwan
– issues involving P/Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido
– possible actions after VFA abrogation
– franchise of ABS-CBN
The Filipino people are resilient and our soldiers are no different. We will survive, no doubt. We know how to improvise and we can adapt to crises the way we did many times before.
But in the meantime, we remain exposed to terrorist threats, both domestic and foreign, not to mention the continuing security threat in the West Philippine Sea posed by China, and even the need for timely humanitarian response and assistance that the US is capable of deploying during disasters, natural or man-made. Also affected by the VFA’s abrogation is the maintenance and repairs of military hardware, mostly air assets provided by the US under the AFP modernization program.
Exploring other options like inking similar defense treaties with other nations as posited by the AFP Chief of Staff is fine but the reality is, it doesn’t happen overnight. It will take a series of back-and-forth negotiations in pursuit of the concerned parties’ self and national interests before going through lengthy deliberations for ratification by the Senate.
While admittedly, the VFA is not perfect for the Philippines as far as equitability is concerned, the timing and reasons for its abrogation are way off the mark.
The thing is, it is not the smartest move of the President to expose ourselves naked first before looking for other options for cover.
Like it or not, bad or good, nothing much can be done now but do a 180-day countdown upon receipt of the notice by Washington. What is certain is that the 1951 PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty will now be reduced to a mere paper treaty as far as the US is concerned.
Having said that, there’s no more intelligence information sharing in our fight against domestic and foreign terrorist acts, no more US military aid and financing that accounts for a good 52% of what they extend to the whole Asia-Pacific region.
That may not include other intangible economic benefits and security from external threats in the West Philippine Sea, as well as humanitarian aid in times of disasters, epidemics and other crises.
“Be it resolved as it is hereby resolved, to express as it hereby expresses the sense of the Senate to earnestly request the President to reconsider his planned abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement in the meantime that the Senate is conducting a review and impact assessment with the end in view of ensuring the continued safety and security of the Philippines and the Asia Pacific and maintain the existing balance of power within the region.” (co-author with Senate President Sotto and Sen. Drilon)