Apart from this reading of the tea leaves, Duterte cannot in principle have a single discretion to decide the fate of the VFA. Senior leaders in the Philippine Senate, particularly the president of the Senate, an ally of Duterte, have launched a petition asking the Supreme Court to ascertain whether Duterte has the unilateral power to denounce the deal. The petition calls for the executive and the legislature to agree on such a decision. Despite the court decision, President Salvador Panelo`s spokesman said: ”We will follow the Supreme Court. No matter what the law says, we will follow. However, the Supreme Court tends to favour Duterte. On February 11, 2020, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte officially announced at the U.S. Embassy in Manila that he was coming to an end to the pact, with the denunciation expected to come into force in 180 days, unless otherwise agreed during that period. In the past, Duterte has shown admiration for both Russian forces and the People`s Liberation Army of China, although the Philippines and China are involved in a dispute in the South China Sea over sovereignty over the Spratly Islands.  In June 2020, the Philippine government reversed this decision and announced that it was maintaining the agreement.  Duterte`s cabinet members also appear to have serious reservations about its VFA decision.
They tried to discuss their concerns with him cautiously, but they understood that they probably will not change their minds. In order to make their views more attractive, they probably tried to emphasize the importance of the VFA for maintaining assistance to U.S. special forces in the fight against terrorist operations in the southern Philippines against the jihadists. Although Duterte threatened to reject U.S. forces in 2016, he also clearly benefits from U.S. military assistance in those operations – and Manila may need more support since 11 of its soldiers have just been killed in the fight against the Terrorist Group Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. The VFA was also important to allow the U.S. military to enter the Philippines in 2013 to provide humanitarian and disaster assistance after Typhoon Haiyan. U.S. security assistance over the past two decades of the VFA`s existence has been considerable and has yielded about $1.3 billion, and annual exercises such as balikate – although this year cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic – greatly increase the Philippine military`s willingness to conduct a series of missions. Indeed, decades of close cooperation between the U.S.
and Philippine militaries have led to very favorable views of the United States under the Philippine defense establishment, while China is considered the greatest threat. Although in 2016 Duterte threatened to kick the Americans