'Not surprising': Women's group slams Duterte after reneging on promise to terminate VFA

Published June 16, 2021, 9:54 AM

by Gabriela Baron

A women’s group slammed President Duterte after failing to honor his promise to terminate the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.

(Photo from US Army)

The Philippines terminated the VFA in February 2020, however, the termination was suspended in June 2020 due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and emerging threats in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

In a statement, GABRIELA said the VFA has been instrumental in facilitating the Balikatan Exercise, which served as the pretext for the arrival of several US soldiers in the Philippines in 2014, including US marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was convicted of killing transgender Jennifer Laude.

Duterte ordered Pemberton’s release through an absolute pardon in 2020.

“This is the third time President Duterte has suspended the VFA abrogation since last year. It is clear that there is a deliberate attempt on the President’s end to almost indefinitely stall his note verbale to terminate the VFA. The question is: why?” GABRIELA Secretary General Joms Salvador said.

“Does Duterte truly wish to abrogate the VFA? Or is it the extension of its promised abrogation merely a bargaining chip for other concessions with US–for example, the Charter Change that Duterte’s minions are railroading in the Congress now? In the first place, our national sovereignty should not even be up for bargaining,” Salvador added.

The group also demanded the Malacañang to “disclose whatever term it is negotiating with the US in relation to the VFA.”

“We remind the president that the VFA is a treaty–something that was approved by the Senate, and therefore, it remains to be a matter that the Senate must also be involved in for review. But what we are seeing now is a clear usurpation of the executive branch on the issue of the VFA’s abrogation,” Salvador said.

On Tuesday, June 15, Duterte extended the suspension of the abrogation of the VFA.