SC should have final say on VFA – Lacson
MANILA, Philippines — The “Gods of Padre Faura” should have the final say on the fate of the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, according to Sen. Panfilo Lacson as he supported moves to elevate to the Supreme Court President Rodrigo Duterte’s contentious unilateral decision to pull the plug on the military accord.
“We respect the President’s decision. We’re not saying that we’re against it, but we should review it first. We’re not going ahead of him in his decision to abrogate [the VFA],” Lacson said in a radio interview on Sunday.
He said the magistrates’ opinion on the issue, as earlier raised by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, was needed to “clarify” if Senate concurrence was needed in terminating an international treaty such as the VFA.
Lacson, chair of the Senate defense committee, said while the 1987 Constitution explicitly states that two-thirds votes of the 24-member chamber were needed to adopt agreements with other nations, it did not mention if the same number of votes were also required to terminate it.
Senate reso ignored
“It’s better to clarify this so that we will know our way forward if there’s a treaty that we have to ratify,” he said.
Lacson and Sotto, along with Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, had filed a Senate resolution urging Mr. Duterte to reconsider his decision to junk the VFA pending the assessment being conducted by the Senate on the matter.
The President, however, ignored the resolution and proceeded with serving the notice of termination to Washington last week, a move that formally signaled the winding up of VFA within 180 days.
SC should clarify this
As to the concerns that bringing the high court into the picture might only lead to a constitutional crisis, Lacson said: “It’s not like that.”
“We just want the Supreme Court to clarify this because the Constitution is silent on this matter. Isn’t it logical that if two-thirds vote was needed to ratify, the same supermajority vote should be needed to abrogate?” he added.
“We’re just referring to the concurrence [on the President’s action], not the [actual] abrogation [of the VFA],” he stressed.
Lacson said the high court’s ruling on a pending petition previously filed by Drilon and other opposition leaders questioning Mr. Duterte’s decision to bolt from the International Criminal Court without the Senate’s approval would also affect the VFA’s fate.
Meanwhile, Drilon said Sotto had notified him that the Senate leader was already drafting the petition that the upper chamber may file with the Supreme Court.
“This will be a bipartisan move to assess the Senate’s role in foreign policy,” the Senate opposition leader said.
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