Panelo: 'No contradiction, inconsistency' in statements about VFA termination

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FILE PHOTO

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 9) — Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said there was no "contradiction nor inconsistency" in the statements made by several government officials regarding the submission of papers to the US about the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

In a statement released Sunday evening, Panelo said he was only quoting President Rodrigo Duterte and that people were making a fuss over an issue that did not exist.

"This representation was merely quoting the President when he said that he would instruct the Executive Secretary to tell the Department of Foreign Affairs to send a notice of termination to the United States on the VFA. To be clear, this representation did not say that the directive of the President to the Executive Secretary has already been issued or given. The said instruction from the tenor of the President using the future tense is just forthcoming. The President may even directly instruct Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin on the matter. It is much ado about nothing," he said.

He said if no instructions were given, then Medialdea and Lorenzana's statements were true. However, he added it did not mean what he said was not true. "It simply means that the Executive Secretary has yet to receive the directive from the President," he said.

Panelo also said there was no "internal clash" in the Cabinet, adding they were "always in unison with respect to the policies enunciated by the President."

Last Friday, Panelo said that Duterte would order Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin to have the government's order regarding the VFA termination be sent to the US.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana would later say it was "fake news" and that no order was given to either the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) or Locsin.

"According to (Executive) Sec. (Salvador) Medialdea! None. Nada. Zilch. Awan. Wala! Anggapo," said Lorenzana.

On the conflicting statements, Lorenzana said he would leave it to Panelo, saying, "I think you have to ask them that. As I said I will stay mum from now on. I leave it to Sec Panelo as the spox (spokesperson) to be the outlet of such news."

Duterte threatened he would end the VFA if Washington did not reverse its cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa.

Duterte said in a speech in January that he was giving the US government a month to “correct” the cancellation of Dela Rosa’s visa.

However, Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson filed a resolution asking the President to reconsider his decision to terminate the VFA.

Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri cited economic complications if the country unilaterally withdraws from the agreement.

Locsin also said the country would stand to lose around ₱10 billion in aid, such as military assistance and financial grants from the US, should the termination push through.