Scrapping VFA: Much ado about nothing ABS CBN News

Scrapping VFA: Much ado about nothing Featured

THIS comedy by Shakespeare is very apt for what’s happening in the Philippines today. In this Shakespearean comedy, rumors, gossip, lying and speculations are the pervading themes that override reality. At the turn of the 15th century, real news traveled slowly but rumors traveled fast. In old medieval Europe town criers were the purveyors of news and happenings from all over, and thanks to the invention of Johannes Gutenberg in 1440 that precipitated the printing revolution, these archaic newspapers were read in the town square after which, the parchment or paper was nailed to a wall in the Town Hall or Guildhall (English), Rathaus (German) or Hôtel de Ville (French) to be perused further by a few literate citizens. Townspeople, few of who could read or write, relied on the town crier’s take on the news that was of course bloated by his biases. But before the town criers’ advent, snippets of events and happenings of highly filtered news were already being discussed in the taverns and inns from whence rumors and gossip emanate. One can just surmise how each citizen injected or detracted some important details as they journeyed from mouth to mouth. Era of fake news In a parallel universe, contemporary history mirrors the past except that we have social media to accelerate dissemination of information, news and rumors through the internet. And we have a modern phrase describing these disorders as each individual has the autonomy to add, subtract or even invent details: fake news. It therefore behooves one to acquire a modicum of intellectual honesty to separate the chaff from the grain, an attribute that is instilled in people only through education, absorption of good values and the ability to reason things out in a logical manner. But we are an imperfect species molded by our individual biases, personal experiences and emotional aptitudes. The downside is that we become skeptical of events, proffered news or even opinions presented in social media. The upside is that these induce debates, dialogues and clash of ideas. Skepticism, if not carried to extreme, has its values. Take for instance the current hot topic, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States. A senator’s US visa canceled Starting with an incongruous knee-jerk reaction from President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD), triggered by the cancellation of the US visa of his favorite ex-policeman, now Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, the Deegong decided to scrap, right there and then, the VFA agreement with the US. And the s**t hits the fan. Our government talking heads have been contradicting each other all over the place on how to handle this newly minted “policy,” which is an offshoot of a presidential tantrum. Witness the Keystone Kops-like bungling of his Cabinet: “Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed that no official order has been issued to formally notify the United States of the Philippines’ intention to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement.” Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo announced that Duterte had instructed Executive Secretary Medialdea to tell Foreign Affairs Secretary “Teddy Boy” Locsin Jr. to send the notice of termination to the US government. But Medialdea said he had not received any order from the President. Branding the information as fake news, Lorenzana said Locsin had not yet been ordered by the President to make such a move. “There is no inconsistency. I was quoting [the President based on] what he told me. If he has not given the instruction yet to ES (executive secretary), it does not mean the information I shared [with] media is untrue. It only means ES has not yet gotten the directive from [the President],” Panelo said. What the President wants kuno Then the ex-cathedra assertion! “…the President said he wants the VFA with the United States terminated…” The magic phrase “the President wants…” is what cloaks Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, the Deegong’s erstwhile palace gofer, and now gofer senator, with mystique. Even before as the President’s number one staff/confidant, no one dared to question or verify such alleged statements from the President. I have often mentioned in my past columns that PRRD intermittently blurts out not-so-well thought-out pronouncements without the filter or advice of his palace coterie. This VFA decision was such a one. Perhaps, his advisers are too intimidated to contradict the President or are simply ignorant or unaware of what the President has in mind. But there is Sen. Bong Go to translate. Whatever! This is not the way to run a government. Obviously there was no policy analysis to gauge its repercussions on different levels: foreign policy, defense establishments, regional security and even our decades-long filial relationship with America. Presidential declarations by definition are always official, especially when involving policy and should at least be subject to a thorough review by several experts in various fields. It is obvious that in this case, there was none. The President was simply creating policy “pa oido, oido” (off the cuff) As an afterthought, the more reasonable cabinet members have called for a deep review and thus coat the presidential faux pas with a face-saving explanation as being the result of Duterte’s long-term assessment of the sporadic transgressions on Philippine sovereignty by America — not the invalidation of the US visa of his favored senator. To get into the act, the Senate came up with a hurried “sense of the Senate” resolution to cover for its castration in its role as guardian of treaties and agreements from which the VFA, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and Mutual Defense Treaty emanate. And that circus of a hearing simply reinforced the contradictions of the cabinet on their positions vis-à-vis the President’s. True, the United States regards VFA as an executive agreement and thus not subject to US Senate approval; on the other hand, Duterte can terminate the VFA on the same basis simply as an executive agreement. But for whatever reason then, the Philippine Senate ratified this agreement in May of 1999, perhaps overlaying it with the majesty if not the force of law. Ergo, the Senate’s position, fearfully docile, just had to kowtow to the President’s. Caregiver vs caretaker A leftist insensitively disseminated a blog that went viral. That people around Duterte are now categorized in two camps: the “caregiver vs the caretakers,” alluding to the good senator, a habitué of the palace as the caregiver. The second designation reinforces the role of the more senior cabinet members as government custodians, referring to PRRD’s lingering incapacities to personally steer the ship of state. These are perhaps just pure speculations and unkind to the President. Methinks the President is still in control of the levers of power and his faculties. But his style of leadership allowing his subalterns to run around the place like headless chickens leaves something to be desired. In all this hullabaloo, the more important dramatis persona was almost forgotten. Apprised of the Deegong’s move — controversial at least for Filipino and American bureaucrats on both ends of the Pacific: “It’s fine by me. If they would like to do that, that’s fine, we’ll save a lot of money!” Ha ha ha! The Donald had the last laugh and trumped them all.000
Read 187 times
Rate this item
(0 votes)