In this April 5, 2019 photo, US Marines with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment currently attached to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, hike with Philippine Marines on their way to conduct room clearing drills during Exercise Balikatan at the Navy Education Training Command in Zambales.
US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Christian Ayers
Palace, DFA told: Explain VFA withdrawal
Kristine Joy Patag ( - June 3, 2020 - 6:17pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court had ordered the officials of the executive branch to explain its withdrawal from the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States.

SC spokesperson Brian Hosaka said the court in en banc Tuesday ordered the respondents to file their comment on the senators’ petition over the Philippine government’s abrogation of the VFA.

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

The SC gave the government officials ten days from notice of order to file their comment, added Hosaka.

The Philippines formally informed the US on February 11 that it is ending the VFA. Termination would have been effective 180 days from receipt of the notice.

It is unclear whether the government had been notified of the SC directive before Locsin announced Tuesday night that the Philippines has suspended the termination of VFA “in light of political and other developments” in the region.

The US Embassy in Manila confirmed that on June 1, it has received the notification from the Philippine government to suspend termination of the VFA.

"The United States welcomes the Philippine government's decision. Our long-standing alliance has benefited both countries, and we look forward to continued close security and defense cooperation with the Philippines," the US Embassy said in a statement.

The VFA petition

Senators on March 9 asked the SC to compel the executive branch to seek their concurrence in the VFA withdrawal.

Led by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, they filed a Petition for Declaratory Relief and Mandamus asking the tribunal to rule that “the withdrawal from 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 the members of the Senate for the said withdrawal to be valid and effective.”

A plea for declaratory relief seeks to determine a question of construction or validity arising from an executive order.

There is no explicit provision in the 1987 Constitution stating whether or not the concurrence of the upper chamber is necessary for the abrogation of a treaty earlier concurred in by the body. But Section 21 of the 1987 Constitution states that no treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred with by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.

The ICC petition

A separate petition on the need of Senate concurrence when withdrawing a treaty is currently pending ruling before the court.

Minority senators in May 2018 filed a petition for certiorari and mandamus, claiming that the country’s pulling out as a state party to the Rome Statute is “invalid or ineffective” for lack of concurrence of the Senate.

The SC held oral arguments on the petition on August 29 and Sept. 8, 2018, but it has yet to rule on the case. 

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