By Hannah Torregoza
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday warned that failure of the Senate to assert its role in the abrogation of any treaty will weaken the institution.
Drilon said the Senate–not the House of Representatives–is considered as the partner of the President in terms of foreign policy.
The minority chief reiterated his stance as the Senate hears President Duterte’s threat to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and United States.
READ MORE: Duterte orders termination of VFA
Duterte’s threat stemmed from the reported cancellation of the US visa of Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.
“Mr. Chairman, the threatened termination of the VFA highlights and validates the need for the Senate to be part of foreign policy formulation. It is part also of our check and balance. It is part of our exercise of that shared power insofar as foreign policy formulation is concerned,” Drilon said in his opening statement during the Senate foreign relations committee hearing.
“A failure on our part to assert such roles is an abdication of our ability and our authority to participate in foreign policy formulation. Our failure to do so will weaken the Senate,” he stressed.
Drilon stressed that the power of the Philippines by treaty or international agreement is vested jointly by the Constitution in the President and the Senate.
“Once ratified and concurred in, it becomes part of the law of the land. I repeat that, when we ratify a treaty, that treaty becomes part of the law of the land,” he pointed out.
“Therefore, it is our submission that a treaty may not be undone without that shared power that put it into effect,” Drilon asserted.
In fact, he said 14 senators co-signed and filed in the 17th Congress PSR 289, the resolution that sought to express the sense of the Senate that the termination of, or withdrawal from, treaties and international agreements concurred in by the Senate shall be effective only upon the concurrence of the Senate.
But the said resolution was not ratified.
“We repeat that, 14 senators signed the resolution in the 17thCongress and nine out of the 14 are incumbent members of the 18thCongress, namely: Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri, Senators Leila De Lima, Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, Panfilo Lacson, Sonny Angara, and Joel Villanueva, plus this representation,” Drilon recalled.
On top of it, Drilon said the present and the previous Congress adopted 20 resolutions concurring in the ratification of or accession to various treaties and international agreements which provided that the President of the Philippines may, with the concurrence of the Senate, withdraw from the agreement.
“In other words, this provision became part of the ratification of about 20 resolutions ratified by the Senate,” he said.
“Even if the proposed resolution 289 was not adopted in the previous Congress for some reasons, although 14 senators concurred with it, we have since that time included in the ratification a paragraph which required that the ratification of the various treaties and international agreement, which provide that the President may, with the concurrence of the Senate, withdraw from the agreement,” he said.
At the same time, Drilon thanked Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III for once again picking up the unratified Senate Resolution 289 and putting it on the agenda of the Senate foreign relations panel which he now chairs.
“We also thank the chair for putting on the agenda PSR 312 which called on the President to reconsider his planned abrogation of the VFA in the meantime that the Senate is conducting a review and an impact assessment,” Drilon said.
The opposition stalwart said this again, validates the role of the Senate in the abrogation, termination, or withdrawal from treaties and international agreements.
“The Senate must be consulted and must assert its role as partner of the President insofar as foreign policy formulation is concerned,” Drilon stressed.