Duterte flip-flop on VFA validates need to share foreign policy with Senate–Drilon

Published August 1, 2021, 9:53 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday, Aug. 1 said the President’s ever-changing and shifting stance on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) validates the Senate’s position that foreign policy should be a shared power and responsibility between the President and the Senate.

Drilon, a former justice secretary said, this has been affirmed by the Supreme Court in the recent Pangilinan v. Cayetano case.

“Foreign policy is not exclusive to the President. It is a shared power with the Senate. It cannot be left to the President alone since it involves policy issues, and Congress is the policy making body in our system of government,” Drilon said in a statement.

The SC earlier upheld that “the President cannot unilaterally withdraw from treaties that were entered into pursuant to the legislative intent manifested in prior laws, or subsequently affirmed by succeeding laws.”

“Treaties where Senate concurrence for accession is expressly premised on the same concurrence for withdrawal likewise cannot be the subject of unilateral withdrawal,” the SC said.

The minority leader also stressed the latest decision of the President to cancel the termination of the VFA also proves that foreign policy is a function that cannot be exclusive to the President.

After unilaterally terminating the VFA last Feb. 11, 2020, Duterte recalled his decision several times in June 2020, in November 2020 and in June 2021.

The President finally decided to retract the termination last Friday.

Drilon also noted that the President’s latest action comes on the heels of the SC’s landmark ruling on the President’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute, wherein the High Court affirms the need for the Senate’s concurrence in the withdrawal from treaties and international agreements.

Meanwhile, Drilon said he expects there would be renewed efforts to strengthen the bilateral relations and military alliance between the Philippines and United States.

He stressed that both nations have shared decades of deeper bilateral relationship and diplomatic ties anchored on trust, respect and understanding.

Through the VFA, the minority leader said both countries were able to share information, surveillance and perform reconnaissance operations in the West Philippine Sea and in Mindanao.

“The continuation of the VFA can help the country in so many areas most particularly with regard to the preservation of our rights over parts of the West Philippine Sea,” the veteran lawmaker said. [Hannah L. Torregoza]