Senators to Digong: Senate has say in VFA

Published February 16, 2021, 10:49 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

At least two senators on Tuesday reminded President Duterte that members of the Senate are well within their rights to proffer insights into the bilateral agreements entered into by the Philippine government with the United States (US) and other countries.

(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson pointed this out on his post on Twitter, saying this is specifically stated under Article VII Section 21 of the 1987 Constitution.

“Mr. President, read the 1987 Constitution. A senator has something to do with international agreements:

“Article VII Section 21. No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate,” Lacson said in his social media post.

“I may not be a lawyer like him. Last time I read the Constitution, a senator has something to do with international agreements. The President should refresh his memory by reading Article VII Section 21 of the 1987 Constitution,” the former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief further said in a separate statement.

Senator Risa Hontiveros echoed Lacson’s views, stressing that for international agreements signed by the president to take effect, Senate must concur.

Last Saturday, Lacson took a swipe at the President’s pronouncement demanding the US to pay for the continuation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), saying it made Filipinos look like extortionists.

He has since deleted the tweet, but said he hoped the President expressed his views on the US-PH VFA in a more diplomatic approach.

Duterte, in a pre-recorded briefing on Monday, told Lacson that the Senate has no function in deals such as the VFA since only the president is empowered by the Constitution to decide on matters related to foreign relations.

Hontiveros defended Lacson saying that as a fellow senator, he is “well within his rights to speak about an Executive Agreement” that is supporting a treaty concurred upon by the Senate.

“The VFA is an agreement flowing from the mutual defense treaty (MDT). And every lawyer worth his salt also knows that the Senate is the treaty making body of our country,” Hontiveros said in an interview over ANC Headstart.

“That’s why Sen. Ping is well within his rights to speak about an executive agreement flowing from a treaty. Sen. Ping, myself and the whole members of the Senate are well within our rights to speak on that issue,” Hontiveros stressed.

  Lacson further pointed out any citizen of the country who feels embarrassed by the President’s “harsh, undiplomatic remarks concerning an existing bilateral agreement is guaranteed under the same Constitution to express his views.”

“Not anyone, even he as President, can curtail that basic right,” the lawmaker reiterated.