Senator Panfilo Lacson said Sunday senators were contemplating on filing a petition before the Supreme Court to clarify the role of the Senate regarding the cancellation of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States and to question the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to terminate it
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Although they had not yet finalized the plan for a petition, Lacson said, there were talks in the Senate to file the petition before the Supreme Court to set the record straight regarding the Senate’s role in the termination of bilateral treaties.
He believes it will be much better that this issue is clarified to end to all speculation.
“Once it [the high court decision] becomes part of jurisprudence, this means the executive branch, the legislative branch or the Senate, particularly, would already know,” he said.
Under the 1987 Constitution, it is only during the ratification of a treaty that Senate action is needed,” Lacson told DZBB.
Lacson said the Supreme Court ruling for the petition against International Criminal Court withdrawal could be applied to the possible petition on the VFA depending on the language to be used by the high court.
He said the Supreme Court’s clarification on the matter would allow senators to know the way forward on future instances of termination of a treaty.
“If we have treaties to ratify, more or less, we can foresee our role if our government, through the President, will unilaterally abrogate,” Lacson said as he emphasized it would be “premature” for his colleagues not to participate in the discussions on the Senate’s role in the VFA abrogation and just move on with President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision.
Senator Win Gatchalian said the Philippines was a nation of resilient people, and that he believed they could easily adapt to any situation.
With or without the Visiting Forces Agreement, he said, the country could carry on, “bearing in mind that we didn’t have any kind of VFA before and yet we were able to run our military without any foreign intervention.”
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Since the VFA was in the process of being abrogated, Gatchalian said, that this was a good time to consider negotiations with other countries for a better and fairer VFA.
“We must not forget the lessons that we have learned from our past negotiations with a foreign state,” Gatchalian said.
Most importantly, he said, this was the best time to strengthen the Armed Forces.
He said the Senate and the Lower House were ready to allocate a bigger budget and funds to purchase more modern military equipment and supplies.
“We need to develop independently our Armed Forces to prove that we can stand on our own,” Gatchalian said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he will join Senate President Vicente Sotto III and other administration senators in filing the petition.
He said this would be a bipartisan move to assess the Senate’s role in foreign policy.
While the President was the chief architect of our foreign policy, he said, the Constitution was clear that such a very critical role was shared with Congress, particularly the Senate.
Drilon said Sotto relayed to him that he was preparing the petition and asked him to be a co-author. Drilon confirmed that he would join the petition as a co-author.
The former justice secretary said that, since the Constitution was silent on the termination of treaties and international agreements, it was only the Supreme Court that could rule with finality on the issue.
“The Supreme Court should rule on this issue once and for all. We cannot continue putting the fate of critical treaties such as the VFA, which termination has far-reaching consequences in the hands of one man, he said.
Once ratified and concurred in by the Senate, a treaty or an international agreement becomes part of the law of the land. Hence, a treaty may not be undone without that shared power that put it into effect, he said.
In 2018, Drilon and minority senators Francis Pangilinan, Bam Aquino, Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros and Antonio Trillanes IV filed a petition urging the Supreme Court to declare the Philippines’ withdrawal from the International Criminal Court “invalid or ineffective.”
Once, the SC ruled in favor of the ICC petition, he said, the termination would be deemed invalid and the membership of the Philippines in the ICC would continue.
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