Duterte urges Fil-Ams to vote for Trump, stays firm on VFA stance

President Rodrigo Duterte confers with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Senator Christopher “Bong” Go during a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Malacañang Palace on Monday, March 9.
| Malacañang photo by Ace Morandante

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told Filipino Americans eligible to vote to support U.S. President Donald Trump’s re-election efforts this November.  

“I’m telling the Filipino now: You’re getting the best deal with Trump,” Duterte said during a press briefing on Monday night, March 9.

The Philippine president quipped about “interfering” in the U.S. election process by endorsing his American counterpart, equating it to how several U.S. senators have reportedly meddled in domestic affairs and have criticized the administration’s human rights violations associated with the anti-drug campaign. 

“To the Filipinos… bumoto kayo kay Trump (vote for Trump). And they say that I am interfering. Of course, I am interfering. Tell that to the Americans, that Duterte is insisting on interfering,” he added. “Do you know why I’m interfering? Because they did it first. They (accuse us of) extrajudicial killing 70,000 (people).” 

Earlier in the press briefing, Duterte reiterated his decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States after senators filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to compel him to seek Senate concurrence in the treaty’s abrogation.

“They cannot compel me. I refuse to be compelled. I have terminated it, tapos ang problema ko (my problem is solved),” he said.

Senators, led by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, filed the Petition for Declaratory Relief and Mandamaus before the SC on Monday, urging the high court to order the Office of the Executive Secretary to seek their concurrence in the termination process. 

Declaratory relief is an action that seeks to determine a question of construction or validity arising from an instrument, executive order, regulation or statute, among others.

Meanwhile, Mandamus refers to compelling the other party to perform a particular act.

“It is respectfully prayed that this Honorable Court…issue an order directing respondents to forthwith refer the Notice of Withdrawal to the Senate of the Philippines for its concurrence, pursuant to Section 21 Article VII of the 1987 Constitution,” the petition read.

While there is no explicit provision in the 1987 Constitution stating whether or not the concurrence of the upper chamber is necessary for the abrogation of a treaty, Section 21 of the 1987 Constitution states that no treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred with by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.

Aside from Sotto, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Senators Panfilo Lacson, and Richard Gordon were present to file the petition that included Resolution 337, asking the high court to define the chamber’s authority in the abrogation of international treaties.

Following Duterte’s order on February 11, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin, Jr. sent the U.S. a notice to terminate the two-decade-old VFA. The treaty is said to be terminated 180-days after the notice.

“As far as I am concerned, we are beginning to count the 180 days for them to pack up and go. I am not reneging on the VFA [abrogation] and I am not going to America to discuss this with anybody, though I respect highly Trump,” Duterte said. 

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