By Vanne Terrazola
Sen. Imee Marcos on Wednesday accused the Senate leadership of railroading the adoption of the resolution that urges President Duterte to reconsider the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.
Marcos was one of the seven administration-allied Senate members who abstained from the adoption of the Resolution No. 312, which expresses the sentiment of the Upper Chamber against the abrupt abrogation of the VFA amid their ongoing review of its implications.
The Senate adopted the measure on Monday night.
Despite being lectured by Senate leaders on legislative procedures Tuesday, the neophyte senator insisted that the chamber should not have quickly approved the resolution.
“Pinuslit nila [ang] VFA reso[lution] nung late na, walang quorum at walang botohan. Ok[ay] lang at ginagawa talaga ‘yun — but not [for] something as controversial as VFA,” Marcos said in a text message.
(They sneaked the VFA resolution when it was already late at night, when there was no quorum, and there was no voting. I’m okay with that because it is being done in the legislative, but not for something as controversial as the VFA).
Asked for comment, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Upper Chamber takes offense with Marcos’ statement.
“I take exception to her ‘pinuslit’ (sneaked) statement. The Senate is offended with that allegation. It shows the lack of parliamentary understanding,” Sotto said in a separate message to the Manila Bulletin Wednesday afternoon.
Sotto, who was one of its authors, maintained the adoption of the Resolution No. 312 was in order.
“Twenty senators answered the call of the roll or were present and it is a continuing quorum unless someone calls for a quorum call. Otherwise, it is deemed continuing. If a senator wants to question a quorum, he or she should be in the plenary hall,” the Senate chief said, repeating his explanation to Marcos in their Tuesday session.
And if there were any irregularities, Sotto said he and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon “will be the first ones to point [it] out.”
“We have mastered the rules,” Sotto added.
Aside from Marcos, Sens. Pia Cayetano, Christopher Go, Ramon Revilla Jr., Francis Tolentino, and Cynthia Villar also manifested their abstention on the resolution. Citing separation of powers, they said they defer to the President on deciding over foreign policy matters.
They joined Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, whose cancellation of his U.S. visa prompted Duterte’s threat to scrap the VFA.
Despite this, 13 senators were in favor of the adoption of the resolution.
Sotto said he does not see the need to discuss the measure again as they “even approved the journal (for their February 10 session) already.”
Senators have repeatedly said that the Senate, in its resolution, is not imposing on Duterte its position about the VFA.
On Tuesday, the Philippines officially notified the U.S. about the VFA’s termination.