Gordon maintains Senate has a say on foreign policy

Published February 16, 2021, 9:25 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Richard Gordon said Tuesday that it was “really unacceptable” to exclude members of the Senate from discussions about the Philippines’ agreements with other countries, especially it involves national security.

Senator Dick Gordon

Gordon delivered a privilege speech to defend the Senate’s authority over international treaties and agreements after President Duterte chided Senator Panfilo Lacson that commenting on his statement about the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, saying he “is not part of it”.

Lacson already responded to this by reminding Duterte that the Constitution specifically stated that no treaty or international agreements will be valid without the concurrence of the members of the Senate.

“What I do find really unacceptable is that the Senate must keep its mouth shut,” Gordon said in his speech.

“I was shocked. I don’t think that the President should say na ‘Wala kayong pakialam’, wala tayong pakialam (that ‘You don’t have a say on this’, that we don’t have a say)’. Kahit na naanghangan siya sa sinabi sa kanya (Even if he was offended with what was said about him),” he further sid.

Gordon pointed out that the Senate, as part of Congress, is a co-equal branch of the executive department.

“The government is composed of three branches — all of whom act on the matter, among others, of foreign policy. On the matter of foreign policy and national security, the Senate can react. After all, we ratified two treaties: the Mutual Defense [Treaty] back [in] 1951 and the VFA, Mr. President, which we also ratified,” he added.

Senators, he added, also speak for Filipinos.

“We are allowed our opinion, just as President Duterte is allowed his opinion,” he said. “And that’s what makes living in a democracy very beautiful. The President can say something, and we can disagree.”

“And, so, this forum of the people that represents 110 million Filipinos must speak on matters on national security. We certainly have the right to speak and talk about it,” he maintained.

While saying he recognizes that Duterte’s “you have to pay” statement could be part of the strategy in negotiating with the US, Gordon said the President should let his Cabinet secretaries negotiate on his behalf.

“While I do not share the President’s propensity to make statements aloud, or in the public, because I believe diplomacy should be undertaken quietly, I think that quiet diplomacy is far more effective than public posturing,” he said.

“Because we should really be able to rise to a level of statesmanship that will allow other countries to respect us,” he explained.

Still, Gordon said he respects and “look[s] up” to Duterte as the Philippines’ chief executive. “That’s why the President must answer to that definition of statesmanship and the presidency and that he must act like the President of all the people of this country.”

“He is the President, he deserves the respect, but at the same time, he must also give the respect to our countrymen,” he added.