Rody can craft own policies on SCS issue—SC

The Supreme Court has upheld President Rodrigo Duterte’s exclusive power as the “chief architect of foreign policy” to conduct and manage the country’s dealings with other states and governments.

Rody can craft own policies on SCS issue—SC
PUSHING BACK. Members of the militant groups Pamalakaya and Anakpawis on Wednesday troop to the Chinese consulate in Makati City to protest the latest attack by Chinese Coast Guard vessels in the West Philippine Sea. Danny Pata
In a decision written by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda that was uploaded to the Court’s website on Nov. 22, the Court declared that it has no power to compel President Duterte on what specific actions he should take to defend the national territory, which includes the West Philippine Sea (WPS), against Chinese incursions.

“The Constitution vests executive power, which includes the duty to execute the law, protect the Philippines, and conduct foreign affairs, in the President — not this Court,” the 15-member bench ruled.

“Being the head of state, he (President Duterte) is free to use his own discretion in this matter, accountable only to his country in his political character and to his own conscience.”

“Ultimately, the decision of how best to address our disputes with China (be it militarily, diplomatically, legally) rests on the political branches of government,” the Court said.

The Court issued the ruling even as it resolved to dismiss the petition for mandamus filed by lawyer Romeo Esmero who named the President as the sole respondent.

Mandamus is “a special civil action brought by an aggrieved party against a tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person unlawfully neglecting the performance of an act which the law specifically requires as a duty resulting from an office, trust or station.”

In his petition, Esmero argued that his petition should be an exception to the general rule on presidential immunity from suit.

The petitioner said it is the prime duty of the government “to serve and protect the people and their rights, including those to the national territory.”

“Given China’s aggression, the President is not prohibited from (and by implication, should consider) engaging in a defensive war and, in so doing, call upon the people to defend the state against China’s aggression,” he said.

Esmero accused President Duterte of “unlawful neglect or inaction in the performance of his constitutional duty” to the detriment of Filipino fishermen and their families who are living in the coastal areas of the many islands facing the West Philippine Sea.

The petitioner also insisted that the filing of diplomatic protests against China is not a defense by our country on the issue of the West Philippine Sea.

“The proper way for the Philippines to act now is to go to the United Nations Security Council and invoke the Uniting for Peace Resolution of 1950 and sue China before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to demand payment and damages for taking the Kalayaan Islands,” Esmero said.

However, the Court said it could have dismissed Esmero’s petition outright since the President is immune from suit, regardless of the nature, during his incumbency.

“Even if for the sake of argument, the Court was inclined to overlook this fatal flaw and consider the case filed against the Executive Secretary, as the representative of the President, if only to save the petition from perfunctory dismissal, a writ of mandamus would still not lie in petitioner’s (Esmero) favor,” the Court said.

“By constitutional fiat and the intrinsic nature of his office, the President is also the sole organ and authority in the external affairs of the country. As the sole organ of our foreign relations and the constitutionally assigned chief architect of our foreign policy, the President is vested with the exclusive power to conduct and manage the country’s interface with other states and governments,” the Court said.

“In addition to treaty-making, the President also has the power to appoint ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls; receive ambassadors and other public ministers duly accredited to the Philippines, and deport aliens,” it said.

The Court ruled that the petitioner failed to point to any law that specifically requires the President to go to the United Nations or the International Court of Justice to sue China for its incursions into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The Court also said the President’s reluctance to use the 2016 arbitral ruling in the Philippines’ favor did not mean he had abdicated his duty to protect the national territory.

“If President Duterte now sees fit to take a different approach with China despite the said ruling, this does not by itself mean that he has, as petitioner suggests, unlawfully abdicated his duty to protect and defend our national territory,” the Court said.

“Being the head of state, he (President Duterte) is free to use his own discretion in this matter, accountable only to his country in his political character and to his own conscience,” it said.

Topics: Supreme Court , Rodrigo Duterte , Rodil Zalameda , West Philippine Sea
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