By Jeffrey Damicog
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra is set to meet with fellow Cabinet secretaries this Friday morning, January 31, to discuss the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States.
“The Cabinet cluster on security, justice and peace will still meet on Friday to deliberate and make recommendations to the President,” he told reporters on Tuesday, January 28.
Guevarra said that Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete also met with the Presidential Commission on the VFA on Monday, January 27, to discuss about the same issue.
“But no firm recommendations yet,” the Secretary disclosed.
Last week, Malacanang ordered the DOJ to conduct a study on the procedures concerning the termination of the VFA.
But on Monday, the Palace told the DOJ to include in its study a preliminary impact assessment on the termination of the VFA.
The Secretary earlier explained that Malacanang wants “to expand the scope of our study to include a preliminary impact assessment on the possible termination of the VFA.
Guevarra also clarified there has been no instructions yet from President Duterte to terminate the VFA.
“It is my understanding that the President has threatened but has not given an order to terminate the VFA,” he said.
“That’s why his office has requested us to study the potential impact of such termination,” he explained.
Malacanang spokesperson Salvador Panelo last week said the President is looking into scrapping the VFA after the US government canceled the 10-year US visa of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.
The spokesman revealed Duterte has had enough of US interference over the country’s affairs, including calls to free detained Senator Leila de Lima.
Recently, dela Rosa revealed that he was informed by the US Embassy that his 10-year visa has been canceled but was given assurance that he can apply again.
The senator believes the cancellation of his visa may have something to do with his involvement in the administration’s war on drug during his time as Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.
Just last year, US President Donald Trump signed the 2020 US budget that includes provisions authorizing the State Department to prevent the entry of Philippine officials involved in the “wrongful” detention of de Lima, a vocal critic of the Duterte administration.