President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte is moving to terminate the shaky US-allied country’s military pact with the United States after Washington revoked former police chief and now Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa’s US visa last month. The close Duterte ally stands accused of widespread of widespread war crimes, including ordering extrajudicial killings of thousands during the Southeast Asian Pacific nation’s brutal ongoing ‘war on drugs’ — raging since 2016.
An enraged Duterte had threatened last month: “I’m warning you… if you won’t do the correction on this, I will terminate the… Visiting Forces Agreement,” and declared provocatively “I’ll end that son of a bitch” — in reference to the pact which provides legal immunity to US military drills.
Filipino Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin testified before the country’s senate this past week that termination of the agreement will “negatively impact” defense and economic ties between Washington and Manila.
“The president said he is terminating the VFA,” Defense Secretary of the Philippines, Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana told ABS-CBN News on Friday. “I asked for clarification and he said he is not changing his decision.”
President Duterte previously gave Washington a month to fix its “mistake” related to punitive action against Dela Rosa and said he wasn’t bluffing. The AP described the history of the key military pact as follows:
The security accord, which took effect in 1999, provides the legal cover for American troops to enter the Philippines for joint training with Filipino troops.
A separate defense pact subsequently signed by the treaty allies in 2014, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, allowed the extended stay of U.S. forces and authorized them to build and maintain barracks and other facilities in designated Philippine military camps.
Perhaps more significantly Duterte went so far as to declare in late January that he will ban some US senators from visiting the Philippines unless Washington backs down. He’d also told members of his cabinet not to visit the US.
Since Manila initiated its aggressive militarized crackdown on illegal drugs starting in 2016, thousands of civilian drug suspects have been left dead across the country, mostly in deeply impoverished areas, resulting in condemnations from the United Nations and human rights groups. Most of these killings also took place outside of any courtroom or judicial setting.
Dela Rosa was tasked as President Duterte’s top enforcer, gaining him popularity among right-wingers and the military in the country, but infamy among others.