‘I will sink and swim with him’: Dela Rosa has no plans to support senators’ VFA petition out of loyalty to Duterte

Neophyte Senator Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa at a Senate press conference. <i>Photo: George Calvelo/ABS-CBN News</i>
Neophyte Senator Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa at a Senate press conference. Photo: George Calvelo/ABS-CBN News

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa is no longer President Rodrigo Duterte’s police chief, but even now it seems like the boss man still has him on a pretty tight leash.

Dela Rosa said yesterday that he is not supporting his colleagues’ plan to petition the Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the government’s decision to abruptly terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) without the Senate’s approval, saying that he couldn’t very well go against the president — particularly since he was sort of the cause of the whole VFA mess, to begin with.

“I’m not supporting it. I’m sorry for my colleagues. I will not support that. Because… what does the constitution say? The constitution said that you don’t need the concurrence of the Senate when it comes to the abrogation of a treaty,” dela Rosa told Senate reporters in English and Filipino.

“With this issue, especially because I have become a poster boy or whipping boy [in connection with the] VFA, so I have to stand my ground. The president might say ‘Bato, I defended you. The Americans humiliated you, and now you refuse to support my stand?'”

All the trouble over the VFA started when the Americans canceled dela Rosa’s visa, presumably because he led Duterte’s drug war and jailed one of the president’s most vocal critics, Senator Leila de Lima. Weeks later, a fuming Duterte publicly threatened to cancel the VFA in retaliation. (The decades-old agreement allows the U.S. to maintain jurisdiction over American servicemen accused of committing crimes on Philippine soil.)

Duterte initially appeared as if he were going to take it back, but eventually pushed his men to sign the divorce papers. Rather trying to bring him back into the fold, U.S. President Donald Trump shrugged off the termination, saying his country would save money as a consequence.

The whole ordeal cast a spotlight on dela Rosa, who publicly expressed his discomfort at being the face of what is proving to be a divisive decision on the part of the president.

Nonetheless, the senator is standing by his man, and not just on the matter of the VFA. He is also on the president’s side when it comes to the closure of broadcast giant ABS-CBN, adding that it doesn’t matter to him that thousands of people would lose their jobs if it stopped the broadcaster from “abusing” the country (needless to say, he didn’t fully explain what that might mean).

“What is 11,000 [employees] compared to the whole Filipino nation that is being abused by this one company, if that is proved in a hearing? What is 11,000 compared to the whole Filipino nation?” he asked.

The onslaught against ABS-CBN by Duterte and his allies has reached a fever pitch in recent days. While people like House Speaker Peter Alan Cayetano and Solicitor General have cast about for justifications for shutting down what is arguably the nation’s largest media outlet, the entire crusade began when Duterte publicly stated he had a grudge against the network because it allegedly failed to run his 2016 campaign ads.

Dela Rosa has vowed to reject ABS-CBN’s franchise should it ever reach the Senate, all in support of Duterte.

“I will live and die with President Duterte. I will sink and swim with him,” dela Rosa said. “I am not plastic and say I don’t have any bias. I’m a real person and say that I am biased towards the president.”


How do you feel about dela Rosa? Tell us by leaving a comment below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.

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