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Ping to Duterte on VFA: Read the Constitution
On Twitter, Lacson asked Duterte to review the Constitution so he would realize that the Senate is very much involved in foreign policy, particularly in forging treaties that impinge on the country’s national security.
Geremy Pintolo, file

Ping to Duterte on VFA: Read the Constitution

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 17, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — It’s President Duterte who should brush up on the Constitution with his insistence that the Senate should keep off foreign affairs, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said yesterday.

On Twitter, Lacson asked Duterte to review the Constitution so he would realize that the Senate is very much involved in foreign policy, particularly in forging treaties that impinge on the country’s national security.

On Monday, Duterte admonished the senator for criticizing his asking Washington to “pay” in exchange for the continuation of the Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Duterte also lambasted Vice President Leni Robredo for calling his attention to his undiplomatic message to the US, even dismissing her as “not qualified” to run for president.

“Mr. President, read the 1987 Constitution. A senator has something to do with international agreements: Article VII SECTION 21. 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,” Lacson said.

In his televised message Monday night, Duterte lambasted Lacson for turning to social media to air his criticism “without really finding out whether you are a part of it or not.”

The senator has since deleted his Twitter posts where he commented that Filipinos are not “extortionists,” but maintained that Duterte could have used more diplomatic language in pressing for more concessions from the US.

Lacson, who chairs the Senate committee on national defense and security, said Duterte should “refresh his memory” by reading the Constitution.

“Even an ordinary citizen of this country who feels embarrassed by his harsh, undiplomatic remarks concerning an existing bilateral agreement is guaranteed under the same Constitution to express his views,” the senator told reporters.

“Not anyone, even he as President, can curtail that basic right,” he said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III defended Lacson even as he expressed puzzlement over Duterte’s pointed remarks.

“If a citizen of the Philippines has every right to voice out his opinion (on) foreign policy, all the more a senator, because all international treaties, agreements have to have the Senate’s concurrence,” Sotto said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said there is a better way of renegotiating terms of the VFA.

The camp of Robredo, meanwhile, called on the President to stop resorting to insults in dealing with critics.

“It’s unfortunate that we always end up like this whenever the Vice President gives her comments… Instead of answering them at the level of the discussion, he resorts to vilification and insults,” Robredo’s spokesman Barry Gutierrez said yesterday.

“It is very clear that since Day One of her vice presidency she is ready,” Gutierrez said in an interview with dzRH.

He cited Robredo’s quick response to crises, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic, as proven by her being able to use her influence and marshal resources to acquire additional personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as offer free transport to medical frontliners.

“When we faced shortage of PPEs for our hospitals, VP Leni asked the help of the private sector,” Gutierrez said.

“So, it is very clear when we talk about preparedness, VP Leni has proven that already,” Gutierrez said. – Helen Flores, Edith Regalado

PANFILO LACSON PRESIDENT DUTERTE VFA
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