By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang denied that there was a clash among President Duterte’s most trusted men after his Cabinet officials issued somewhat different statements about the Chief Executive’s order to scrap the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.
Panelo made the statement after Cabinet officials, concerned with the termination of the VFA, particularly Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea found themselves in the middle of the confusion on what the President’s position on the VFA really is.
On Friday evening, Panelo told reporters that Duterte ordered Locsin to formally notify the US of the Philippines’ intention to abrogate the VFA.
READ MORE: Panelo refutes Lorenzana: No fake news
However, Lorenzana, Locsin, and Medialdea claimed they have not received any such order from the President.
In a statement Sunday evening, Panelo laughed off reports about the difference of the statements of the four Cabinet officials.
“It is amusing to observe a recent surge of news reports narrating that members of the President’s official family are contradicting one another anent his order to issue a notice of termination for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” he said.
“There is neither contradiction nor inconsistency among the statements made by this representation, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana concerning this matter,” he added.
Panelo reiterated that he was merely quoting the President when he said that he would instruct the Executive Secretary to tell the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to send a notice of termination to the United States on the VFA.
“To be clear, this representation did not say that the directive of the President to the Executive Secretary has already been issued or given,” he said.
“The said instruction from the tenor of the President using the future tense is just forthcoming. The President may even directly instruct Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin on the matter. It is much ado about nothing,” he added.
The Palace official furthered that if Duterte has not given his instruction yet, then the statements of Medialdea and Lorenzana were accurate just like his.
However, he said this did not mean that he gave the media false information nor was there a clash in the President’s Cabinet.
“This, however, does not mean that the information I shared with the media on the President’s decision with regard to the VFA is inaccurate or untrue. It simply means that the Executive Secretary has yet to receive the directive from the President,” Panelo said.
“What is inaccurate and untrue are news articles saying that there is an internal clash within the President’s Cabinet on the situation. There is none. We are always in unison with respect to the policies enunciated by the President,” he added.
READ MORE: Duterte orders termination of VFA