By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Whether or not the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between Manila and Washington will be abrogated, the Department of National Defense (DND), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Philippine National Police (PNP) should always be ready to address any “external aggression” and update their security and defense plan, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Paulino Salvador Leachon said on Saturday (Feb. 1).
He rallied behind the “final” decision of President Duterte to terminate the 1999 security pact.
“At any rate, regardless of the presence of VFA forces, it is mandatory for us to prepare our defense from any external aggression just like what any country does with their respective armed forces,” he told the Manila Bulletin in a text message.
The former chairman of the House committee on justice during the previous 17th Congress said under the Constitution, Duterte has the prerogative to forge and scrap executive agreements.
“It’s all within the President’s prerogative being being the head of the executive department, as constitutionally guaranteed, to enter and terminate executive agreements. In fact, it doesn’t even need concurrence by the Senate. That was resolved by the Supreme Court already,” Leachon, a lawyer, said.
He said there is nothing wrong with the President’s directive to prohibit Cabinet members from visiting the United States “indefinitely” as part of toning down the Philippines’ interaction with the U.S.
“For the travel ban of cabinet members, it’s same principle. Besides, they are the alter ego of the President,” he said.
Similarly, Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon cited on Thursday (Jan. 30) the need for the DND, AFP, and PNP to draw up a “contingency” defense and security plan, following Duterte’s “final” decision to terminate VFA.
The senior vice chairman of the House committee on national defense and security said with the termination of the VFA, the U.S. might consider “obsolete” the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
He said a “contingency” security plan is needed should the U.S. distance itself from the Philippines following the termination of the VFA, which governs the movement of U.S. vessels, aircraft, and troops visiting the country.
In a media interview at the 69th founding anniversary celebration of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Quezon City on Wednesday night, President Duterte said his decision to terminate the 1999 security pact was final, saying he was doing it for all Filipinos, not just Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, after the latter’s U.S. visa was canceled.
Biazon said the snowballing concerns about the impact of the termination of the VFA on the country’s security landscape should prod Duterte’s security cluster to provide a comprehensive review on its security implications.
“The concern about the impact on the country’s defense capability and security strategy was already raised by several quarters, and I hope that the Department of National Defense, the National Security Adviser, as well as the Armed Forces of the Philippines were able to give a comprehensive review on the impact of terminating the VFA with regard to our defense posture and other defense agreements and treaties with the U.S.,” Biazon said.