De Lima backs Senate’s move for SC to rule on terminating treaties


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed support to the Senate’s move to formally ask the Supreme Court (SC) to rule on whether Mr. Duterte can unilaterally end treaties and international agreements without the Senate’s concurrence.

De Lima said while the President is the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy, he shares it the Senate, particularly on matters of articulating the national interest in international affairs in the form of treaties and international agreements.

“It has always been my position that the Senate, as an institution consisting of the direct representatives of the people elected nationally, is constitutionally mandated to actively lay down foreign policy as the expression of the national interest in international affairs,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame 729.

“The very design and spirit of the 1987 Constitution that favors checks and balances over concentration of power is clear on this. While the President is indeed the chief architect of foreign policy, he designs this in partnership with the Senate. It is a shared power,” she added.

Last March 2, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and 12 other senators officially adopted Senate Resolution (SR) 337 asking the High Court to rule whether the Senate must concur in the abrogation of a treaty that it was previously concurred.

Under the present 1987 Constitution, Section 21, Article 7 provides that: “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.”

“Personally, I would have preferred that what was adopted was the Drilon Resolution (SR 305) which I co-authored, a stronger version which expresses the sense of the Senate that the termination of, or withdrawal from treaties and international agreements concurred in by the Senate shall be valid and effective only upon concurrence of the Senate,” De Lima said.

“Nevertheless, the adoption of the Sotto Resolution, SR 337, is sufficient enough as an expression of this desire to challenge the President’s authoritarian interpretation of the Constitution when it comes to laying down foreign policy and articulating the national interest in international affairs,” she added.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, explained that a treaty or international agreement concurred in by the Senate becomes a law, and the Executive Branch cannot unilaterally reverse or abrogate it without the Upper Chamber’s concurrence.

“Once foreign policy is jointly acted upon by the President and the Senate in the form of a treaty or international agreement, this becomes the law of the land, and the Executive cannot unilaterally reverse, modify, annul, or repeal this law unless concurred in by the Senate, or another law is passed by Congress as a whole,” she said.

In May 2018, it may be recalled that De Lima was one of the senators from the Senate Minority Bloc who filed a petition before the SC asking to invalidate Mr. Duterte’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Rome Statute, the treaty that governs the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Because the Supreme Court has continued to be silent on the matter, political pundits believe that Mr. Duterte has been emboldened further to abrogate on other international treaties including the VFA, and possibly with the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

“For one branch to undo what the sovereign Filipino people have done through their representatives would be a usurpation of the sovereign prerogative. The President is not sovereign,” she maintained.

“He is not king. He is but a representative and, in the case of treaties, he possesses no monopolistic claim of representation. He shares it with the Senate. It offends both reason and the intent of the Constitution to hold that while two keys are needed to secure a treaty, only one is needed to disturb or abandon it,” she added.

According to the lady Senator from Bicol, the Senate leadership was right in asserting its power vested upon it by the Constitution to exercise checks and balances against presidential possible abuses.

“We cannot and should not allow the repudiation of a treaty based on the personal hostility, whims, caprices and self-serving interests of one individual, that of an unstable Head of State. Senate must step in to check on his abuses,” she said.

“And the Supreme Court, both in the earlier Petition on the ICC withdrawal and now, in the proper case soon to be filed on the VFA abrogation, must allow the Senate to do so,” she added. (30)/JB/FJM

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