Sotto: Executive branch’s withdrawal from pacts sans Senate concurrence could hurt check-and-balance in gov’t

Published February 20, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The executive branch’s arbitrary withdrawal from treaties and international agreements could hurt check and balances in the government in the long run.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III admitted this on Thursday as he pointed out the need for the Supreme Court (SC) to finally settle the dispute on whether or not the Upper Chamber’s concurrence is necessary in the country’s termination of treaties.

seante president vicente sotto III during the Senate hearing on Good Conduct Time Allowance at Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials were involved in a scheme in which good-behavior credits for the early release of prisoners could be bought for cash.I(photo by ali vicoy)
Senate President Vicente Sotto III (ALI VICOY / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sotto is leading the petition to be filed before the SC to clarify the Senate’s authority over the abrogation of treaties and international agreements, since the 1987 Constitution is silent on it.

Administration officials and allies have insisted that the President, as the country’s foreign policy architect, has the sole power to terminate treaties which were enforced through the ratification of the Senate.

Asked in an interview if such position could weaken the Senate as an institution, Sotto said: “Oo (Yes), I think it is not good for the balance of power, as we call it, in the co-equal branches of government.”

Sotto said this could also imperil the treaties that the Senate ratified in the last two years, when they started including in their resolutions a provision stating that any withdrawal should have the Senate’s approval.

“All of that will be down the drain,” the Senate leader warned.

At the Senate committee on foreign relations’ discussion Thursday on the proposed resolution asserting the chamber’s role in the abrogation of treaties, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said at least 20 treaties ratified by the Senate contained the said provision. These include the Paris Agreement and the Philippines’ membership in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, he said.

Sotto said the petition to the SC will be filed along with the resolution drafted by Drilon after its adoption next week.

“We would like to have a constitutional interpretation of the SC on our position that there is such a thing as ‘mirroring effect.’ In other words, we are asked to ratify [treaties], we have the sole power of ratification, and therefore, when you abrogate, we must concur. ‘Yon ang paniniwala namin (That’s our belief),” Sotto said.

Sotto expressed optimism that the majority of the Senate’s members will support the move, sans the pro-administration senators who have distanced themselves from the leadership’s plan.

Aside from Sotto and Drilon, the petitioners also include Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon, as well as ex-senators Rodolfo Biazon and Kit Tatad.

READ MORE: Drilon proffers something new: Mirror principle in treaties