By Stacy Ang
MANILA — Senator Bong Go said Monday (27 January 2020) that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and other concerned agencies are preparing for the possible termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States after President Rodrigo Duterte gave his stand on the issue last week.
Earlier, Duterte said that if the US State Department does not explain its recent cancellation of the US visas of certain Philippines officials, particularly Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, he will move to terminate the VFA.
“I will fight for the rights of Filipinos. Do not interfere in our judicial process namin. They should establish first the truth before they meddle,” said Duterte.
Go stressed that the Duterte Administration is simply protecting the interests of Filipinos. He urged US officials to know the truth and not interfere with the country’s domestic affairs.
“You have a problem right now,” Go told reporters addressing the US legislators who voted for a Senate resolution banning entry into US of Philippine government officials purportedly involved in alleged extrajudicial killings and the detention of Senator Leila de Lima.
“Alam niyo naman si Pangulong Duterte, hindi naman nangunguna iyan eh, subalit ‘yung atake niyo po kay Senator Bato ay atake na rin po sa pamahalaan,” Go said.
Go emphasized that the US owes the public an explanation for its actions.
Go stressed that those US officials may have been misinformed regarding the drug charges pressed against de Lima whose detention is in accordance with the law as upheld by no less than the Philippine Supreme Court.
“Whatever the reason in the cancellation of the passport, of Sen. Bato, you should explain it, why it was cancelled. If you say it is because of Sen. De lima, now you have a problem. You have a big problem,” Go said.
Go told reporters that the administration is already preparing for the possibility of terminating the VFA, a pact that allows American troops to visit the country and conduct joint training with Filipino troops, among others.
“The process for the cancelation has been started. Let us just wait for our Executive Secretary (and) the Office of the President at ang (Secretary) of Foreign Affairs Secretary Locsin,” Go said.
Go said he has not yet been informed if his own visa was cancelled too. He said that his US visa will expire in 2021.
“I no longer asked and I have no plan to question if they cancelled it. So if they cancelled it, I will just watch the NBA finals on TV,” the senator said in jest.
Meanwhile, when asked about his comment regarding the prosecution of de Lima, Go said that he will leave it to the courts to decide and that he respects the judicial process.
Meanwhile, Senator Imee Marcos on Monday warned the Philippines could lose custody of U.S. Marine Corps lance corporal and homicide convict Joseph Scott Pemberton if the government cancels the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Senator Imee Marcos said.
The VFA, according to the neophyte senator, gives the Philippines legal jurisdiction over American military personnel who commit crimes under the country’s laws.
“The U.S. might be glad if there’s no more VFA because the American troops can enter the country because of the Mutual Defense Treaty and EDCA. The Philippine will lose its authority on the criminal cases if this happened,” stressed Marcos.
The U.S. may demand that Pemberton be freed before he could serve his minimum jail sentence if the VFA is ended before December 2021 or less than six years after his conviction, Marcos also said.
Pemberton was convicted and sentenced to six to 12 years in prison on December 1, 2015 for the 2014 motel killing of transgender Jennifer Laude. (IAMIGO/CPH)