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Drilon joins Sotto at SC on VFA query

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he will join Senate President Vicente Sotto III and other administration senators in filing a petition that will question in the Supreme Court the President’s decision to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement without the concurrence of the Senate.

He said this will be a bipartisan move to assert the Senate’s role in foreign policy. 

While President Rodrigo Duterte is the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy, he said the Constitution is clear that such a very critical role is shared with Congress, particularly the Senate. 

Drilon said that Sotto told him that he is already preparing the petition and asked him to be a co-author. Drilon confirmed that he would join the petition as a co-author.

Since the Constitution is silent on the termination of treaties and international agreement, he said it is only the Supreme Court that can 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.

“It is our firm belief that if treaties and international agreements the President entered into cannot be valid without the approval of the Senate, the termination of, or withdrawal from, the same should only be effective with the concurrence of the Senate,” he also 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 added.

In 2018, Drilon and minority senators Francis “Kiko” 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.”

The former Justice secretary explained that once the SC ruled in favor of the ICC petition, the termination will be deemed invalid and the membership of the Philippines in the ICC will continue, saying that the VFA will benefit if the SC upholds the power of the Senate. 

The four-time Senate President reiterated his call on Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by administration senator Aquilino Pimentel III, to finally report out Senate Resolution 305, a measure that he authored seeking to assert the role of the Senate in treaty termination or withdrawal. 

Topics: Franklin Drilon , Vicente Sotto III , Visiting Forces Agreement , Supreme Court , Senate
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