Baptism of fire: Tolentino defends Duterte-Xi verbal fishing deal, but admits he got no details
MANILA, Philippines—Francis Tolentino’s baptism of fire as a senator came in the form of a verbal tussle with his colleagues when he tried to defend President Rodrigo Duterte’s supposedly unwritten agreement with China letting Chinese fishermen inside Philippine waters, which Tolentino said was a valid exercise of the President’s powers to enter into executive agreements.
Only problem for the former Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair, however, was he has no record nor details of the agreement which he said does not require scrutiny by the Senate, the government’s treaty-ratifying body.
In a privilege speech, Tolentino said the President has the power to “validly enter into legally binding international verbal agreements with other states for and on behalf of the Philippines.”
“As the chief architect of the nation’s foreign policy, the President can enter into executive agreements with other nations for the execution and implementation of the laws crafted by Congress as well as treaties entered into by the state,” said Tolentino in his debut performance on the Senate floor.
“These executive agreements do not require Senate,” he added.
Tolentino appeared to have a full grasp of what he was saying until Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon stood to interpellate him.
Drilon said since there is no official record nor details of the so-called verbal agreement, there was no way to determine its validity, which Tolentino insisted in his privileged speech.
Concluding whether the deal needed Senate concurrence or not was difficult to make since the government has no record of the agreement, according to Drilon.
“If we do not know exactly the parameters of the oral agreement, how can we say that this is valid under international law, that it is valid under the Constitution? Before we get into a debate, what exactly are we debating on?,” Drilon said during his interpellation of Tolentino.
“Since we do not know the parameters of the agreement, how can we come up with the conclusion that the agreement does not need Senate concurrence?” he added.
Tolentino admitted that he does not have records of the verbal agreement save for media reports./TSB
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