On June 1, the Philippine government informed the U.S. Embassy in Manila that it had frozen a February decision to withdraw the Philippine and U.S. Visiting Forces (VFA) agreement. The agreement between the two countries facilitates the possibility for the United States to send military forces to the Philippines and supports the mutual defense treaty signed in 1951 by the U.S. and Philippine governments. The VFA is a 1998 agreement between Manila and Washington on the protocol for the U.S. military in the country. Controversial provisions include the lax visa and passport policy for U.S. troops and the power of the U.S. government to retain jurisdiction over the military if they ever commit crimes on the ground. In many host countries, the VFA can become an important political issue as a result of crimes allegedly committed by members of the visitation service.
This is especially true when it comes to serious crimes such as theft, murder, manslaughter or sexual crime, especially when the charge is defined differently between the two nations. For example, in 2005, four U.S. Marines were charged in the Philippines with raping a native woman they had been drinking with. As the incident had nothing to do with the military duties of the accused, they were charged under Philippine law before a Philippine court that convicted one of the accused and acquitted the others. The second challenge, Suzette Nicolas y Sombilon Vs. Alberto Romulo, et al. / Jovito R. Salonga, et al.
Vs. Daniel Smith, et al. / Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, et al. Vs. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., on 2 January 2007, was re-decided by the Supreme Court on 11 February 2009. In deciding this second challenge, Court 9-4 (with two judges who inhibit) ruled that “the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) concluded on February 10, 1998 between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States is in accordance with the Constitution … The decision continued, particularly with respect to the subic Rape case, “… the Romulo-Kenney agreements of 19 and 22 December 2006 are not in accordance with the VFA and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, respondent, is responsible for negotiating without delay with the representatives of the United States the corresponding agreement on detention centres under the Philippine authorities, in accordance with Article V, para. VFA, until the status quo is maintained until further decisions of the Court.  UP professor Harry Roque, an adviser to former Senator Jovito Salonga, one of the petitioners in the case, said in a telephone interview about the decision on the consistency of the VFA. “We`re going to appeal… We hope to be able to convince the other judges to join the four dissenters.  In February, Duterte ordered the disclosure of the Visiting Forces Agreement, endangering security coverage for the Philippines, which is increasingly exposed to hostile Chinese actions in the South China Sea.
Under the agreement, Washington and Manila had 180 days after giving notice – in this case until August – to try to salvage the deal. Paradoxically, the fatal blow to the VFA could come from Washington itself rather than from Manila. Asked about Duterte`s denunciation of the agreement, Trump said, “I don`t mind them wanting to do it.