Suspending the VFA termination

Along with the passage of the highly controversial Anti Terrorism Law, the Duterte Administration has issued through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) a diplomatic note dated June 1, 2020 to the United States (US) Embassy in Manila informing the latter of the suspension of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) termination. In simple terms, VFA is hanging by a thread and if the President of the United States (POTUS), Donald Trump, appeals and gives concessions, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) may reconsider. A masterstroke?

POTUS is embattled right now because of the death of George Floyd in the hands of the police. Floyd, a black man suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, was arrested and handcuffed by the police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. While lying facedown on the ground, a white police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes and this allegedly caused the latter’s death. Floyd’s death eventually became a tipping point for anti-discrimination protests all over the US. The protests are becoming out of control that POTUS insinuated in a couple of tweets of using violence against these protesters. The tweets have been flagged by Twitter.

With POTUS appearing to lack control, and with the “timely” abrogation of the VFA, Donald Trump’s chances for reelections this November would become bleak. So with the suspension of the termination of the VFA, POTUS will have a breathing space until everything settles down in his country.

The suspension, of course, is not without a price. As to what the price is, we do not know yet. The official word from the Palace is that the suspension was made “for the safety of our nation and the peace in the world” amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the “heightened superpower tensions.”

But of course, while the noose is tied on Uncle Sam’s foot, it also signals China to take the island grabbing in the West Philippine Sea discreetly if not slowly. The Anti-Terrorism Bill is not yet signed and should there be indications of domestic uprising, PRRD may find it hard to control.

So in a way, these situations provide an opportunity for PRRD to exercise an upper hand. Moments like these, however, are fleeting and may cause serious repercussions when the Americans cast their ballots this November. Some says, PRRD is a risk-taker. Without risks, there will be no rewards. But hopefully, the rewards will be more valuable than the risks.

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