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Duterte firm on VFA abrogation despite senators’ legal challenge

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday stood firm in his decision to abrogate the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States even after some senators questioned this move before the Supreme Court.

Speaking to reporters in Malacañang, Duterte said he could not be compelled to seek the Senate’s concurrence before he can terminate the VFA.

“They cannot compel me. I refuse to be compelled. I have terminated it, tapos ang problema ko,” he said.

“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 of [US President Donald] Trump.”

On Monday, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senators Ralph Recto, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Franklin Drilon, Richard Gordon and Panfilo Lacson asked the SC to declare that a treaty previously concurred in by the Senate should require the concurrence of at least two thirds of the Senate if withdrawn.

The petition was filed almost a month after Manila notified Washington of its intention to end the two-decade old VFA, which governs the conditions under which American soldiers may be present in the Philippines.

Opposition senators have also brought this issue to the SC in a case questioning the Philippines' withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In 2018, Duterte decided to withdraw the country's membership from the ICC weeks after it announced it was reviewing allegations against him over his deadly crackdown on illegal drugs. The withdrawal took effect in March 2019. —LDF, GMA News