Favorable SC ruling can save VFA: Lacson

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    SEN. Panfilo Lacson yesterday said the 1998 RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement can be saved only by a Supreme Court ruling favoring the Senate’s role in the termination of international treaties.

    Lacson, chair of the Senate national defense committee, also said senators must decide within the week on whether they will seek clarification with the tribunal.

    The Duterte government sent a notice of the VFA termination to the US last week. The termination would be effective 180 days from receipt of the notice by the US government.

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III last week said senators may question before the Supreme Court this week government’s move to terminate the VFA without consulting the Senate.Some senators are of the position that the executive branch of government cannot just scrap an agreement that was approved with the concurrence of the Senate.

    Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon yesterday said he will join Sotto and other administration senators in filing a petition that will question the President’s decision to terminate the VFA without the concurrence of the Senate.

    “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,” he said.

    Drilon said that since the Constitution is silent on the termination of treaties and international agreement, it is only the Supreme Court that can rule with finality on the issue.

    Lacson echoed Drilon’s statement, saying there is nothing in the Constitution that says Senate concurrence is needed in terminating international agreements.

    Lacson also said the country will lose a lot is the VFA, which sets rules on the conduct of American forces in the Philippines, is terminated.

    He said that from the time the VFA took effect in 1998, the US has sent some $1.3 billion worth of assistance to the country, $900 million of which delivered during the Duterte administration.

    He said this represents about 52 percent of the total assistance given by the US in the Asia-Pacific region.

    He said air assets of the Philippine Air Force will be among those to be negatively affected by the VFA termination, aside from intelligence gathering and dispatch of assets in times of calamities.

    He also said the termination is not timely as the country is now exposed to external threats.