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. The United States has used the agreement at least twice to keep the accused military under U.S. jurisdiction.  On January 18, 2006, the U.S. Military retained custody of four soldiers accused of rape while they were visiting Subic Bay during their trial in a Philippine court.
 They were detained by U.S. officials at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. This has led to protests from those who believe that the agreement is unilateral, harmful and contrary to the sovereignty of the Philippines. [Citation required] The agreement has been characterized as immunity from criminal prosecution for U.S. military personnel who commit crimes against Filipinos and treatment of Filipinos as second-class citizens in their own country.   As a result of these problems, some members of the Philippine Congress considered ending the VFA in 2006.   However, the agreement has not been amended. As far as symbolism is concerned, nibing the VFA would be the biggest setback we have seen in the U.S.-Philippine alliance since Duterte took office. While Duterte has already made various threats, including the search for a “disconnection” with the United States and the suppression of the exercises, none of them have really played a role, and on some fronts such as exercises, cooperation has indeed intensified. And as former Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario has pointed out, the VFA is important not only to itself, but also to a series of TDM-related agreements that help advance its effective implementation.
It is the first time Duterte has denounced a deal with the United States after denouncing Washington during his more than three-year term for hypocrisy and treating the Philippines “like a dog on a leash.” The Visitors Agreement (VFA), signed in 1998, gives law to thousands of U.S. troops who travel around the country for humanitarian aid and military exercises, dozens of which take place each year. The Philippines is the largest recipient of foreign military financing (FMF) in Asia ($40 million to the GJ2020) and the largest recipient of assistance under the Indo-Pacific Maritime Security Initiative (DFA). Philippine officials said the FMF and the purchase of U.S. defense equipment amounted to $267.75 million in 2016-2019. In 2017, DOD launched Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines (OPE-P), which aims to help the Philippine military fight terrorist groups in the south of the country.