They clarified that their 56-page declaratory relief and mandamus petition covers treaties in general and not just the VFA ,as they asked the SC to take cognizance and grant their petition.
BusinessWorld/File
SC urged to clarify Senate role in VFA termination
Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - March 10, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Amid controversy over the unilateral abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States, senators yesterday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to require two-thirds of their approval before the government can withdraw or terminate a treaty or an international agreement. 

They clarified that their 56-page declaratory relief and mandamus petition covers treaties in general and not just the VFA ,as they asked the SC to take cognizance and grant their petition. 

“To render a decision declaring the withdrawal or termination of a treaty or international agreement that had previously been concurred in by the Senate requires the concurrence of two-thirds of all members for the act to be valid and effective,” the senators said.

They asked the SC to “issue an order directing respondents to refer the Notice of Withdrawal to the Senate of the Philippines for its concurrence, pursuant to Section 21, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution.”

The petitioners were Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, and Sen. Richard Gordon. 

The respondents in the petition were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.  

Even if 11 justices of the SC were appointees of President Duterte, Drilon said they have confidence that the high tribunal would be fair in its judgment. “We have full faith and confidence in the impartiality of the SC,” he said.

He added that the petition they filed would be Sotto’s legacy as Senate president because “it is under his presidency that we would have the final disposition and delineation of the powers between the Senate and the executive. Senate President Sotto is asserting the independence of the Senate and the check and balance that we have to protect,” Drilon said.  

In filing the petition, the senators seek to settle a constitutional issue on the proper interpretation of Article VII, Section 21 of the 1987 Constitution that states, “No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.”

“Applying all the foregoing to the present case, it is clear that the President cannot terminate the VFA without having undergone the same process set out under Section 21 of Article VII of the 1987 Constitution. Following the Mirror Doctrine and consistent with our existing system of checks and balances, Senate concurrence should be secured in terminating a treaty,” the senators said. 

“Under the Mirror Principle, the degree of congressional participation constitutionally required to exit any particular agreement should mirror the degree of congressional participation that is required to enter into the agreement in the first place,” they stressed.

“In other words, the process in withdrawal should follow the same process in accession to the treaty, that is why it mirrors the procedure,” the lawmakers said. 

The VFA between the Philippines and US took effect on May 27, 1999. Last Feb. 11, Duterte announced that he was unilaterally terminating the VFA with the US. The withdrawal will take effect after 180 days from receipt of the Notice of Withdrawal. 

The Senate has until Aug. 9 to question the unilateral withdrawal of the President.

VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT
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