Senators take VFA issue to SC

March 09, 2020

SENATORS yesterday asked the Supreme Court to issue a definitive ruling whether or not the concurrence of the Senate is required before a treaty it previously ratified, like the Visiting Forces Agreement, is abrogated. 

In a petition for declaratory relief and mandamus, Senate President Tito Sotto and Senators Ralph Recto, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Franklin Drilon, Richard Gordon, and Panfilo Lacson also asked the high court to “issue an order directing respondents to forthwith refer the Notice of Withdrawal to the Senate of the Philippines for its concurrence, pursuant to Section 21, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution.”

While the petition did not implead President Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. however were named respondents. 

Malacañang confirmed last month that the notice of termination of VFA has been signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin, Jr. and sent to the US government.

“The President directed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to tell Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin of the Foreign Affairs to send the notice of termination to the US government last night. And the Executive Secretary sent the message to Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin, and the latter signed the notice of termination and then sent it to the US government today,” Presidential spokesman Panelo told a press briefing.

According to Panelo, the termination will take effect 180 days from now.

The VFA, signed in 1998, accorded legal status to US troops who were rotated in the country for military exercises and humanitarian assistance operations.

Duterte’s ‘threat’ to terminate the VFA stemmed from the cancelation of Sen. Ronald dela Rosa’s United States visa.

Dela Rosa, a former chief of the Philippine National Police before he joined the Senate, is a staunch ally of the President. 

Dela Rosa disclosed that his U.S. visa had been canceled and was told he can re-apply for a visa.

US President Donald Trump recently signed into law the US 2020 budget that included a provision banning jailers of Senator Leila de Lima from setting foot on American soil

De Lima, who is now detained at the PNP Custodial Center on charges of illegal drugs, earlier identified Filipino officials allegedly involved in her wrongful incarceration. 

She identified some of her jailers as President Duterte, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, online bloggers Mocha Uson, Sass Rogando Sasot, and RJ Nieto. 

De Lima also named the following former and incumbent officials: former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Solicitor General Jose Calida, and Congressmen Rey Umali and Rudy Fariñas, to name a few.

The Constitution statsd that a treaty may only be entered into if there is a concurrence from the Senate. Section 21, Article VII of the Constitution says “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.”

But the provision was silent if the concurrence of the Senate is needed to withdraw a treaty like the VFA.#