Ex-senators back Senate move to bring VFA to SC

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    SENATE President Vicente Sotto III yesterday said two former senators will join them as petitioners in seeking a clarification from the Supreme Court (SC) on the role of the Senate in the termination of international treaties.

    Sotto said former Senators Francisco Tatad and Rodolfo Biazon have decided to join them as petitioners, noting that the two former senators were the sponsors of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) during the 11th Congress.

    Sotto, Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon, and Senators Richard Gordon and Panfilo Lacson have announced plans to go to the SC to question whether or not the Senate should play a role in the abrogation of international treaties, just as it plays a vital role in the ratification of such agreements.

    Senators Ronald dela Rosa and Aquilino Pimentel III said they will not join their colleagues in going to the high court.

    Dela Rosa, an ally of President Duterte, expressed the opinion that the power to terminate international treaties rests on the Chief Executive alone.

    “I believe that the power to abrogate a treaty rests on the president and it doesn’t need the concurrence of the Senate, otherwise it should have been clearly stated in the Constitution,” Dela Rosa said.

    President Duterte’s decision to scrap the VFA came following the decision of the United States government to void the visa it has issued to Dela Rosa.

    Pimentel, Senate foreign relations committee chair, said he has yet to read the petition to be filed with the SC “and I still do not know what their legal theory is.”

    “There must be a legal basis, should be based on the Constitution, laws, and treaties,” Pimentel said.

    Sen. Christopher Go, another ally of the President, said he respects the views of his fellow senators but reiterates his support for the termination of the VFA.

    “I, however, believe that the termination of the VFA is a chance for us to write a new and better chapter in Philippine-United States relations. We should now be able to renew our friendship, reaffirm our ties and resume cooperation as true co-equals,” Go said.

    Go despite a difference in opinion, he and those who oppose the filing of the petition still support the leadership of Sotto.

    “The Senate is a collegial body. It is not composed of only one person. As far as I know, majority of the sitting senators still trust the leadership of Senate President Tito Sotto III.

    And, so far, to my knowledge, no one has explicitly signified any intention to replace SP Sotto,” Go said.

    Sotto said that there is no specific date yet for the filing of the petition.

    “Inaayos lang ang (We are still fixing the) wordings [of the petition] because I merely want a simple petition asking the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution whether it should pass through the Senate or not when the treaty is abrogated,” Sotto said.

    Sotto said he does not see the Senate clashing with the executive department in going to the SC.

    “Kapag ang fi-nile namin ay petition for certiorari, ‘yun ang head to head. Hindi naman ‘yun ang ifa-file namin. I-file namin is for the Senate to assert its right (If we file a petition for certiorari, that will be the time we will go head to head with the executive department.

    What we will file is for the Senate to assert its right [in the termination of international treaties]),” he said.

    Drilon 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.”

    Drilon said while the Constitution is silent on the termination of treaties, it is best if the SC can rule with finality on the issue.

    Lacson, in a radio interview Sunday, said only a favorable SC ruling can save the VFA from being officially terminated.

    Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin last week sent the official notice of termination of the VFA to the US Embassy in Manila. The notice has already reached Washington.