Malacañang ready for court battle over VFA termination

THE PRESIDENT’s spokesperson said the Duterte administration is ready to defend the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States should legislators question the move before the Supreme Court. “As far as we are concerned in the Executive, there is no need for a concurrence in the Senate because the Constitution, if it’s clear to them, it’s also clear to us,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a briefing in Malacañang on Monday. Minority Floor Leader Franklin M. Drilon was the first to make a statement that senators could bring the matter to the high court. Mr. Drilon said last Sunday that Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III will prepare the case, which is supported by several other legislators. Mr. Panelo said they are aware that at least four senators are backing the move. The VFA termination notice was received by the US Embassy in Manila on Feb. 11. Mr. Panelo earlier said the end of the military pact will take effect six months after the US government receives the notice. — Gillian M. Cortez

PEZA proposes private sector-funded military reservist program

PEZA logoTHE PHILIPPINE Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is proposing to institutionalize the military reservist program for ecozone workers, which can be funded by locators and the cost for training and equipment included in their tax deductible expenses. The reservists would primarily be tapped for rescue operations during calamities and terror attacks. In a statement on Monday, PEZA said it wants to issue an administrative order (AO) that would establish the trained personnel as part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reservist units. “PEZA’s unique structure with 404 operating ecozones and 4,478 locator companies, once trained, will provide 1.5 million directly and 7 million indirectly employed reservist manpower, as more than enough for the 80% Reserve component of the AFP,” said PEZA Director-General Charito B. Plaza, who met last Feb. 13 with AFP Chief of Staff Felimon T. Santos, Jr. on Feb. 13 along with industry leaders. The proposed AO would also allocate a budget for training, uniforms, and equipment. Ms. Plaza is also pushing for the establishment of “defense ecozones,” or hubs for military technology and equipment. Jenina P. Ibañez

‘Bikoy’ posts bail

PETER JOEMEL Advincula, the man who confessed to be “Bikoy” in the video linking the President and his family to illegal drugs, has posted bail for the charge of conspiracy to commit sedition along with Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV and nine others. Lawyer Larry Gadon, legal counsel of Mr. Advincula, told reporters in a mobile phone message that his client posted the P10,000 bail before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 138 on Monday. Mr. Gadon said Mr. Advincula, the sole witness of the police when the complaint was filed, does not want to be under the Witness Protection Program but is willing to be a state witness. Others charged are Joel Saracho, Boom Enriquez, Yolanda V. Ong, Vicente Romano III, Fr. Albert E. Alejo, Fr. Flaviano Villanueva, Jonnel P. Sangalang, Eduardo Acierto, and “a certain Monique.” Messrs. Villanueva and Alejo posted bail on Friday when the arrest warrant was issued by the court. Mr. Trillanes said he will post bail this week upon his return from an engagement abroad. Vann Marlo M. Villegas