By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday said he will continue to uphold the Senate’s independence even if it would result to him “losing political alliances and support.”
Sotto issued this statement a day after leading the Senate in challenging President Duterte’s termination of the Philippines’ visiting forces agreement (VFA) with the US before the Supreme Court (SC).
The Senate filed a petition for declaratory relief and mandamus asking the SC to rule on whether or not its concurrence is needed in the abrogation of treaties and international agreements, and compel Duterte to seek their concurrence in scrapping the VFA.
Duterte, however, said he refuses to be compelled by the SC and will stand pat on his decision to pull out of the military pact with the US.
He also dismissed the senators’ petition as a “political move to win Filipino voters in the US.”
But Sotto said the legal move was meant to “assert the sense of the power of the Senate that we know and we think that we have.”
He maintained that the Senate must be consulted on “vital matters” like the termination of treaties, just as its concurrence is required before the same are enforced.
“This role is particularly important to ensure that the power to forge partnerships with our neighbors and allies remains impartial. The Senate must do its part in protecting the checks and balances in our government,” Sotto said in his statement.
He said they brought the issue to the SC not because of his “personal concerns”, raising the possibility that he could lose his alliance with Malacañang after this.
Sotto has considered Duterte as an ally, saying he has known the former Davao City mayor since he was Quezon City vice mayor.
“Personal interests should never outweigh public welfare. I will always choose to fight for the independence of the Senate. That is the legacy that I would like to leave this institution when my term comes to an end,” Sotto said.
At least 12 senators supported the Upper Chamber’s move to ask SC to settle the debates over President Duterte’s unilateral decision to terminate treaties. Seven administration allies opted to abstain, in apparent submission to Duterte’s decision.