After U.S. cancels Bato's visa, Duterte threatens to scrap visiting forces agreement

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Following the United States' decision to cancel the visa of Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, President Rodrigo Duterte renewed his threats to "terminate" the Philippines' Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US.

"I'm warning you, this is the first time: 'pag hindi ninyo ginawa ang correction diyan, I will terminate the basis of Visiting Forces Agreement. Tapusin ko'ng putang inang 'yan," Duterte said on Thursday, January 23, during a speech in Leyte, where he distributed aid to former rebels. 

(I'm giving you this first warning: if you don't correct [what you've done], I will terminate the basis of the Visiting Forces Agreement. I'll end that son of a bitch.) 

His declaration was prompted by his anger over the cancellation of the visa of Dela Rosa, who was his first Philippine National Police chief and is known as the architect behind his bloody anti-illegal drug campaign. Dela Rosa had confirmed news his US visa was cancelled, saying Washington officials informed him he could apply for another visa if he wished.

"I'm giving notice. I'm giving the American government one month from now," Duterte said.

Sought for comment, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters, "I have to study the matter first before talking to him."

Can Duterte 'terminate' the VFA? The VFA, which took effect in 1999, outlined guidelines for the conduct of American troops visiting the Philippines. The agreement is the foundation for military exercises between the Philippines and the US.

Duterte had threatened to scrap the VFA before. He did so in December 2016 after the US did not renew an aid package for the Philippines.

 "They have to start to talk to us because they have to go. Bastos eh (They're insulting)," Duterte said on Thursday.

Senators said on Friday, January 24, there was no need for Senate concurrence to terminate the VFA.

While Senate rarification was needed to make the VFA valid  – which the Senate did during the Estrada presidency – lawmakers said Senate action is not needed now to terminate the agreeement.

The Department of Justice has been "tasked to study the proper procedure to terminate the VFA," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters on Friday. 

"We are doing it now," he added.  

Duterte retaliates: Duterte also threatened to deny entry to US senators who voted for a Senate resolution that seeks sanctions against Philippine officials involved in extrajudicial killings in relation to the Duterte administration's drug war and the detention of Senator Leila De Lima.

"Second, itong mga senador na nagboto sa resolution (these Senatros who voted for the resoltuion), I will not allow them to enter to the Philippines in addition to Senator [Dick] Durbin and 'yung lecheng – (and that despicable)," Duterte said, referring to US Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, whose named he made fun of.

US Senate Resolution 142 invoked the Global Magnitsky Act, which is the US' law that gives its executive branch the power to impose visa and travel restrictions and financial sanctions on human rights violators anywhere in the world. If sanctions are imposed, affected Philipine officials may be denied US visas and may have their bank accounts and assets in America frozen.

US senators unanimously adopted the measure. (READ: What we know so far: Proposed U.S. sanctions vs PH officials in drug war) – 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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