Issue of February 21, 2021
     
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Spat

The scrapping of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States of America is triggering some sort of a disagreement between Pres. Rodrigo R. Duterte and Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

By way of background, the VFA was forged as an executive agreement allowing the U.S. to establish their presence in Philippine shores for military exercises, create temporary posts for the transit of their soldiers, and the refueling of their ships, submarines, airplanes, and destroyers while on patrol.

This agreement is quite strategic for the U.S. because of the need to assert its military might in the Pacific region, especially during this period of crisis when China is gobbling up all the territories along the South China Sea.

In his desire to formulate an independent foreign policy and veer the country away from military dependence, Duterte wants the VFA to be abrogated. Actually, he asserted this stance not only once but twice.

The first was when the visa of Sen. Ronaldo dela Rosa was indefinitely cancelled by the U.S. Embassy Manila due to human rights issues. The President came to his succor and demanded that unless it is reinstated, the VFA will be cancelled. As to why the visa of a private individual is more important than diplomacy, one can only wager a guess.

The second was when the President demanded the government of the U.S. to guarantee the delivery of such number of anti-Covid-19 vaccines in exchange for the continued recognition of the VFA. His demand was direct but stern, brief but extravagant, frank but blunt. It was the manner by which he made the demand that urged Lacson to tweet that the President should have been more diplomatic and pacified so that it will not look like as if the country is an extortionist.

Anybody in his right mind would not want to be called an extortionist. This, therefore, pissed the President and when he gets pissed, what comes next becomes predictable. Hell breaks loose. He admonished Lacson to brush on his knowledge about the Constitution. He lambasted the Senator telling to find out “whether you are a part of it or not.”

Lacson retaliated by reminding the President to “refresh his memory” and maintain some sense of diplomacy in dealing with an allied country. He added: “Even an ordinary citizen of this country who feels embarrassed by his harsh, undiplomatic remarks concerning an existing bilateral agreement is guaranteed under the same Constitution to express his views.”

What will happen next is anybody’s guess. Yet, this spat between two of our most formidable leaders is not doing the country any good. What we need is a solid foundation where all our officials are in agreement so that we can improve our diplomatic relationship with other countries and at the same time, assure that we can get a sizeable share of the vaccines that will cure our people.

It is, therefore, hoped and prayed that the disagreement between the President and Lacson will be patched up soon and the hatchet between them be lifted.

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