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Philippines senators seek Supreme Court ruling over VFA termination

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. AFP

MANILA (Manila Times) – Philippine senators have adopted a resolution asking the Supreme Court to rule if the Senate’s concurrence is needed in the abrogation of a treaty previously concurred in by the chamber.

Senate Resolu tion (SR) 337 was authored by Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto 3rd, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Richard “Dick” Gordon and Panfilo “Ping” Lacson.

They filed the SR on Monday amid the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States by President Rodrigo Duterte without consulting the Senate.

The Senate ratified the VFA on May 27, 1999.

Aside from Sotto, Zubiri, Drilon, Gordon and Lacson, those who voted in favor of SR 337 were Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Senators Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay, Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Emmanuel Joel Villanueva, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros.

The seven who abstained in the voting were mostly partymates and allies of the President – Senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Francis Tolentino, Cynthia Villar, Maria Josefa Imelda “Imee” Marcos and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.

“The text of the 1987 Constitution is clear as regards the required concurrence of the Senate for the validity of a treaty or international agreement,” Sotto said.

“There is obviously a lacuna legis – an absence of any explicit provision in the 1987 Constitution – as to whether or not the concurrence of the Senate is necessary for the termination of any treaty earlier concurred by the Body,” he added.

SR 337 states that “now is the most opportune time for this august body to obtain from the honorable Supreme Court its declaration on this legal question.”

“The ambiguity on the concurrence of the Senate in the abrogation of treaty involves an issue of transcendental importance that impacts on the country’s constitutional checks and balances,” Sotto said. “It presents a constitutional issue that seriously affects the country’s legal system as well as the country’s relations with the international community.”

Go said he did not take part in the voting because he believes that the President has the power and prerogative “to cause the review and termination of treaties taking into consideration the welfare of our nation.”

“Second, there are pending cases before the Supreme Court tackling the issue of whether or not Senate concurrence is necessary in terminating or withdrawing from a treaty. I believe that as a co-equal branch of the government, the Senate must not dictate upon the Supreme Court as to how and when to do its job,” he added.

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