"What exactly are the renegotiated terms of the pact?"
It’s final: We will still see American combat boots stepping on Philippine soil in the years ahead.
That’s what’s clear after Rodrigo Duterte made an unexpected 180-degree turn and withdrew his earlier decision to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) after meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
This came a year after he first announced it in February 2020, in an apparent moment of extreme pique over the rejection by the US Embassy here in Manila of the visa extension of former top cop and now Sen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, the chief enforcer of his bloody war on illegal drugs from 2016 onwards up to the latter’s retirement a few years later.
The US Embassy in Manila has welcomed Duterte’s decision to fully restore the VFA, as the pact strengthens rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region.
“We strongly believe that the VFA, and the broader alliance that the VFA enables, strengthens not only the security of our two nations but also the rules-based order that benefits all nations in the Indo-Pacific,” it said.
For US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the renegotiated VFA shows that “[a] strong, resilient US-Philippine alliance will remain vital to the security, stability, and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific...A fully restored VFA will help us achieve that goal together.”
What exactly the renegotiated terms of the pact are aren’t clear. Will Malacañang or the DFA be telling us what have been discussed and agreed upon by both sides? We deserve to know.
In any event, we agree with Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon that Duterte’s flip-flopping on the VFA issue shows why foreign policy ought to be a “shared power” between Malacañang and the Senate.
For Drilon, although Duterte is the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy, “it is not exclusive to the President...It is a shared power with the Senate. It cannot be left to the President alone since it involves policy issues, and Congress is the policy-making body in our system of government.”
Drilon cited an earlier Supreme Court decision that said: “The President cannot unilaterally withdraw from treaties that were entered into pursuant to the legislative intent manifested in prior laws, or subsequently affirmed by succeeding laws. Treaties where Senate concurrence for accession is expressly premised on the same concurrence for withdrawal likewise cannot be the subject of unilateral withdrawal.” That Manila and Washington have greenlighted the VFA to continue is likely to be disappointing to Beijing, given Duterte’s pivot to China since 2016.
Or maybe not, because we have yet to read any response from Chinese authorities on this recent development.
Australian law professor reacts to killings of PH lawyers
Last week, in response to my July 30 column on the killing of lawyers, Gill H. Boehringer, Professor and former Dean (ret.) of Macquarie University Law School in Sydney, Australia sent an email that clarifies some of the points raised:
“Thank you for your column today in the Manila Standard. It is important that the desperate situation of the lawyers in the Philippines is brought to the attention of the public and, of course, that something be done about this dreadful phenomenon, and others, that face the Filipino people.
“Unfortunately, the situation is worse than you suggest through no fault of your own. The material released by the IBP—and that by FLAG, Rappler and the NUPL—all understates the problem of lawyer killings. Why they do this is not known to me.
“I am the Co-Chair of the Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers of the International Association of People’s Lawyers. We have been independently monitoring the attacks on lawyers in the Philippines for more than a decade.
“Our research, based on sources, including the PNP, IBP, Filipino monitoring groups such as several mentioned above, media, academic, foreign monitoring groups, reports from official monitoring by the UN and independent Fact Finding Missions, reveals the following:
“Lawyers killed under Arroyo: 83, with 4 survivors; under Aquino: 47 with 1 survivor; Duterte 66 with 17 survivors.
“Assuming the IBP and the others are correct (although I expect they are on the low side) there were 28 killed from Marcos to Estrada. That means that prior to Duterte there were 158 lawyers killed prior to Duterte’s 66.
“Why the claim is being made that there has been a 500% increase only those who make such a claim can answer. But to indulge in such historical revisionism is surely not the way to understand the nature of the problem nor to come up with solutions to, or even mitigation of, the problem.
“BTW, we do agree that the rate has intensified under Duterte.
The rate per month: Duterte 1.1; Aquino .65; Arroyo .74
“I attach our list of the attacks under Duterte which includes survivors, law workers, and paralegals as the threat to the rule of law, and much else, is more serious than just the number of lawyers killed.
If you are interested in following this up, I can send you the lists of lawyers et al attacked under Arroyo and Aquino.”