Palace denies "internal clash" among Cabinet members over VFA termination
Malacañang denied on Sunday that there was an "internal clash" among some members of the Cabinet on whether to terminate or not the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that the news articles on the supposed internal clash within President Rodrigo Duterte's Cabinet regarding the issue was "inaccurate and untrue."
"There is none. We are always in unison with respect to the policies enunciated by the President," he said.
Panelo, who is also the chief presidential legal counsel, issued the clarification after he said last Friday that Duterte would instruct Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to order Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to send a notice to the US terminating the VFA.
On Saturday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana branded as "fake news" reports that Duterte already ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs secretary to inform Washington of the Philippines' intention to end the treaty.
Medialdea also issued a separate text message to reporters, saying he had not yet received any instruction from the President.
"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," Panelo said.
He insisted that he merely quoted the President when he said that he would instruct the Executive Secretary to tell the DFA to send a notice of termination of the VFA to the US.
"To be clear, this representation did not say that the directive of the President to the Executive Secretary has already been issued or given. 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," Panelo said.
He said if Duterte has not given yet his instruction, the statements of Medialdea and Lorenzana were accurate, he said.
"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," the official explained.
At the same time, in an interview by Radyo Inquirer on Sunday, Panelo said the senators are not barred from reviewing the VFA despite plan to terminate it.
“They are not prohibited from reviewing any treaty for executive agreements so that they can also give their recommendation as a body,” he said.
In case the Senate concluded that there was no need to abrogate the VFA, Panelo said it could only recommend to the President.
“The President will also study if their point is right,” he said.
He reiterated that the VFA termination does not need the Senate’s approval.
“If you terminate it, since that is an Executive Agreement, there is no need (for Senate’s approval). Even in treaty, our position is termination comes to the President, he is the chief architect (of foreign policy), he will be the one to decide,” Panelo said.
During the Senate hearing last Thursday, Locsin said he had yet to receive direct instruction from the President to send notice to Washington to terminate the VFA.
But he underscored the importance of the treaty as he called for its "vigorous review" instead.
Duterte has decided to end the VFA after the US government canceled the visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa, his close ally and former top cop when he assumed the presidency. Celerina Monte, Ella Dionisio/DMS