The Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Friday that President Rodrigo Duterte unilaterally canceled the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States. The VFA provides legal protections for U.S. service members who visit the islands for military drills. The mutual defense pact and our other military agreements with the Philippines are not affected.
This fellow Duterte is a piece of work.
“The president said he is terminating the VFA,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Friday. “I asked for clarification, and he said he is not changing his decision.”
That choice is another blow to the relationship between the United States and the Philippines, which has suffered for years from disputes over Duterte’s human rights record. The belligerent president announced a plan to terminate the deal, which provides legal protection to U.S. troops who visit the island for military drills, after the State Department reportedly canceled the visa of a political ally and former police chief who is suspected of involvement in extrajudicial killings.
“I’m warning you … if you won’t do the correction on this, I will terminate the … Visiting Forces Agreement,” Duterte said late last month. “I’ll end that son of a bitch.”
The former police chief, Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, oversaw the killings of nearly 4,000 suspects over a two-year period. I’d say that was reason enough for the State Department to deny him a visa.
But Duterte, who has admitted in the past to being responsible for “extra-judicial” killings, was peeved by State’s decision. Would he risk a break with the U.S. over a diplomatic demarche?
“China’s island-building and military activities in the South China Sea threaten your sovereignty, security, and therefore economic livelihood, as well as that of the United States,” Pompeo said in Manila. “We remain committed to supporting not only the Philippines in that effort — and the Philippines will need to do its part as well — but all the countries in the region so that these incredibly vital economic sea lanes are open and China does not pose a threat to closing them down.”
That relationship has been undercut by Duterte’s drug war, a campaign that is central to his political identity but that he has prosecuted with a brutal disregard for human rights, according to a recent State Department report.
“My only sin is the extrajudicial killings,” Duterte said in 2018.
With this unhinged thug running the Philippines, a lack of a VFA puts American soldiers in danger. Duterte is the law. He seems perfectly capable of arresting and jailing Americans on trumped-up charges. The Pentagon will think long and hard about our military commitments to the Philippines as long as Duterte is in charge.