Duterte can scrap PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement without Senate approval – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2020   •   428

President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte can terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States (US) even without the concurrence of the Senate, Malacañang said on Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement after the president threatened to scrap the VFA if the US government does not reverse the cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa.

“Because it (VFA) is an executive agreement so he can cancel it without the approval of the Senate,” Panelo said.

Dela Rosa on Wednesday confirmed to media that he is not allowed to travel to the US for now after he received notification about his visa cancellation.

The senator said the exact reason on why his US visa was cancelled remains unclear but he heard reports it might be linked to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs that he spearheaded when he was the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) from 2016 to 2018.

The VFA, signed by Manila and Washington in 1998, is a bilateral deal which outlines the guidelines for the conduct of government troops when they are visiting the US or the Philippines.

Panelo said the US government should not intervene with the Philippines’ internal issues.

The Palace official also believes the president’s threat to cancel the VFA will not affect Filipino workers in the US. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Dela Rosa on Espenido being in drug watchlist: “I am vouching for his integrity.”

Marje Pelayo   •   February 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Ronald dela Rosa wants to know the person who included the name of P/Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido in the government’s drug watchlist or list of cops linked to illegal drug trade.

Senator dela Rosa said it surprised him to hear that Espenido’s name was on the list when it wasn’t the case when he was still the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Hindi ko nakita noong panahon ko, otherwise, hindi ko iyan i-a-appoint (I didn’t see (his name) during my time, otherwise, I wouldn’t have appointed him),” the Senator said.

Dela Rosa transferred Espenido from Albuera, Leyte to Ozamiz City.

Espenido spearheaded the raids that resulted in the killing of then Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr. and the downfall of the Parojinog drug chain.

Given Espenido’s service history, dela Rosa expressed doubt as to how his name ended up in the President’s drug watchlist.

“Saan galing yan? Lumabas lang out of thin air? (Where did it come from? Did it appear out of thin air?),” the former PNP Chief said.

He urged that the PNP leadership should investigate how it happened, adding that there might be a ‘syndicate’ inside the PNP who wanted to dishonor their comrades.

“Dapat ungkatin ng PNP kung sino ang gumawa ng report na iyan, most likely sindikato na pulis ang gumawa noon (The PNP should investigate who made that report. It’s most likely a syndicate of cops who did that),” dela Rosa noted.

“Dahil kung andyan pa iyang mga pulis na iyan most likely meron na naman iyang gagawing kalokohan sa ibang kasamahan nila na makakalaban nila (Because if those cops are still in position, most likely they will repeat their follies against other cops who oppose them),” the Senator added.

Senator dela Rosa clarified that Espenido still has his full trust and similar to President Duterte, he doesn’t believe Espenido is involved in illegal drugs trade.

“He is my man I am vouching for his integrity,” dela Rosa said of Espenido.

“Kilala ko siya na matino siya (I have known him as a straight cop),” he concluded. MNP (with reports from Lea Ylagan)

Lacson backs gov’t move to block release of P80-B congressional realignments

Robie de Guzman   •   February 19, 2020

Senator Panfilo Lacson

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday revealed that at least P80 billion in congressional realignments have been withheld by President Rodrigo Duterte and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

In a statement, Lacson said some lawmakers tried to realign at least P80 billion from the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program to their districts’ “pet projects” under the P4.1 trillion 2020 national budget.

But instead of exercising his veto power over the line items which could stall the approval of the budget, the lawmaker said Duterte decided to just block the release of the budget by way of a DBM circular now called “for later release,” which has the same effect of a veto.

“I support the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte and the Department of Budget and Management to withhold the release of these congressional realignments,” he said.

“This is one reason why I continue to support the leadership of President Duterte in spite of some disagreements with him over some policy issues: He has time and again displayed the strong political will, even against many self-proclaimed allies in Congress whose loyalty clearly lies where the money lies,” he added.

Lacson advised the president to “always be wary of these so-called allies” who have the propensity to praise him to high heavens and never criticize him but with self-aggrandizement and greed as their only motivation and nothing else.

The House of Representatives has yet to issue a comment on Lacson’s claim. – RRD (with details form Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

US, evacuate citizens from Japan cruise ship; South Korea to follow suit

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 17, 2020

The United States (US) has evacuated its citizens from the virus-hit cruise ship Diamond Princess off the coast of Japan.

Two planes carrying around 300 American citizens left Haneda Airport on Monday morning (February 17).

South Korea also plans to bring home their citizens in the said cruise ship.

“Even before February 19, the government plans to bring those South Koreans home if they are tested negative from screenings by the Japanese authorities and are willing to return. We will first check our people’s intentions and then cooperate with the Japanese government,” according to South Korea Minister of Health and Welfare, Park-Neung Hoo.

Canada and Hong Kong will also send planes to evacuate their citizens.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said they will assist in repatriating Filipino crewmen aboard the cruise ship.

538 Filipinos are aboard the Diamond Princess, 531 are crewmen while 7 are passengers. There already 27 of them who tested positive of COVID-19.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary Ed Meñez said the Filipinos who tested positive of the virus are already brought to the hospital for better care.

“We received information that aside from the 11 Filipino crew members who are earlier identified, another 16 have been identified over the weekend to have been identified as COVID positive,” he said.

The DFA also said the Inter-Agency Task Force will discuss their planned action in a meeting to assist the Filipinos aboard the cruise ship.—AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)

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