By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Richard Gordon said he welcomes the Senate’s move to hold a public hearing on the Duterte government’s plan to abrogate the Philippine’s 20-year old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, as this will pave the way for Filipinos to know whether or not it would be beneficial to the country in the long run.
Gordon said he believes the Senate should “assert” its right to be part of the process of abrogating a bilateral treaty, which involved them in the first place.
The Senate ratified the VFA in 1999 as a reaffirmation of the obligations of the Philippines and US under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).
But President Duterte recently threatened to terminate the treaty after it was confirmed that the US cancelled former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief and now Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s US visa.
“At the very least, it will help the people understand the importance of what the government is doing, what are the security implications of such move. Would this mean we are truly pivoting to China? That’s what the others are saying. But I don’t think so. I think we should adopt a neutral stand but we should be able to study this carefully and not just follow whatever they say,” Gordon told reporters in an interview.
“The Senate must assert itself as the third branch of government involved in treaty making. Remember this is the only thing that the Senate is involved, the rest Congress is involved,” Gordon pointed out.
Asked to clarify what he meant by “asserting” the Senate’s authority, Gordon replied: “Assert, not for the sake of assertion, but assert the fact that if we can concur, we can reject a unilateral withdrawal.”
Gordon expressed fears that abrogating the VFA at this time may have serious repercussions on the government’s national security, especially since the government has no external defense capabilities.
That is why he said the President should be careful when he makes his remarks.
“At this time, ang dami nating problema. Sinasagasaan ang mga bangka natin, iniiwanan, hindi nila nire-respeto yung mga sundae natin dun, pinapaalis. Di naman dapat i-abrogate. Baka mamaya lalong mamaga yang mga problemang iyan (At this time, we have so many problems. Our fishermen are mistreated, left to die in the sea. They don’t respect our authorities. They drive them away. I don’t think we should abrogate it. It might only worsen our problems),” Gordon pointed out.
“That’s my position for this particular issue. Because sovereignty issues are involved , territorial issues, the Senate should be part of it.
“Kapag i-abrogate mo dapat at least malaman ng Senado kung bakit inaabrogate at malaman ng publiko. (If you are abrogating it, at least he Senate should know why are we abrogating it, and the public should also know about it),” he said.