Palace to heed SC ruling on VFA issue

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

February 21, 2020, 3:47 pm

<p>Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo. <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo. (File photo)

MANILA — Malacañang on Friday said it would heed the Supreme Court (SC) in case it rules that President Rodrigo Duterte’s abrogation of the Philippines' Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (US) needs prior consent from the Senate.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Palace respects the Senate’s plan to question before the High Court the legality of Duterte’s termination of VFA sans the concurrence of the chamber.

Eh ‘di (i)-elevate nila. Wala namang problema doon (Elevate the issue, if they want. There’s no problem with that),” Panelo told Palace reporters.

The Department of Foreign Affairs on February 11 sent to the US the formal notice of the Philippines’ revocation of the VFA.

The VFA, signed in February 1998, stipulates conditions for the conduct of visit of US forces to the Philippines.

The agreement, which was deemed by Duterte as disadvantageous to the Philippines, will be terminated 180 days after Washington received the formal termination notice.

Panelo, however, acknowledged that while Duterte has no plan to overturn his decision, SC has the final say on VFA’s fate.

He said the executive branch will follow the SC in the event that it sides with senators that there is a need for Senate nod on the withdrawal of the military pact.

Eh di susundin natin. Basta kung ano ang batas yun ang susundin natin. Yung ang sabi ni Presidente (We will follow SC. Whatever the law says, we will comply. That’s what the President said),” Panelo said.

Some senators, including Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, are expected to file a petition before SC, questioning Duterte’s move to scrap the VFA.

Last week, Sotto said the Senate respects Duterte’s power to uphold an independent foreign policy but wants SC to rule whether the chamber’s blessing is needed for the termination of the military accord.

Drilon, meanwhile, warned that the executive’s insistence that Duterte has the sole authority to terminate VFA would lead to “serious consequences.”

US President Donald Trump earlier said it was fine that Duterte ended the military deal, as Washington DC would be able to “save a lot of money.”

Panelo earlier said Duterte scrapped the VFA to pursue his plan for the Philippines to stand on its own when it comes to boosting its military’s defense capabilities. (PNA)