After Senate files VFA petition, Duterte insists: 'I refuse to be compelled'

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte brushed aside the Senate’s move to challenge his decision to unilaterally terminate the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, as he asserted he was set on seeing the deal dead. 

“They cannot compel me. I refuse to be compelled,” Duterte said in a late night press conference on Monday, March 9, when asked for his reaction to the Senate’s petition asking the Supreme Court to define the limits of his power.

Duterte, who earlier ordered the the Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr send notice he was terminating the VFA, said he rid himself of his problem with the military deal by withdrawing from it. 

The President added that as far as he was concerned, he was counting down the 180 days until US forces would “pack up and go” and the VFA would no longer be in effect.  

“I am not reneging on the VFA and I am not going to America to discuss this with anybody," Duterte said.  

It’s this insistence of the President in solely withdrawing from treaties which the Senate wants the High Court to rule on. The petition for a declaratory relief and mandamus that was filed on Monday, March 9, asked the Supreme Court to order Duterte to seek the Senate's concurrence in terminating treaties like the VFA. 

Senate President Tito Sotto, however, sought to temper the Senate’s move, saying the petition was not an affront to Duterte. While the petition did not implead Duterte, it is effectively challenging the wisdom and decision of the President. (READ: At last, Senate asks Supreme Court to define limits of Duterte's power)

Duterte earlier broached the idea of terminating the VFA after the US cancelled the visa of his ally and first police chief Senator Ronald Dela Rosa. Dela Rosa is known as the architect of Duterte’s bloody drug war. 

Duterte goes further: In speaking about the VFA during a briefing on the government’s efforts to combat the novel coronavirus, Duterte spared the time to endorse US President Donald Trump, who is seeking a fresh term in office. 

Duterte set aside his “high respect” for Trump in his decision to terminate the treaty, saying his reasons for doing so were due to the “political moves” of US lawmakers.

He claimed US senators sought sanctions against Philippine officials involved in the drug war were “political moves” to gain Filipino votes in the 2020 US election. 

“I'm telling Filipinos now you’re getting the best deal with Trump…. To the Filipinos, bumoto kayo kay (vote for) Trump,” he said. 

Trump earlier expressed no opposition to Duterte’s decision to terminate the VFA. The US President claimed the move wold save the US “a lot of money.” 

Like Duterte, Trump is widely criticized for his populist policies and moves to weaken democracy and checks and balances in the government. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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