Duterte allies in Senate backtrack, abstain from reso on VFA termination
Updated @ 11:05 p.m., Feb. 11, 2020
MANILA, Philippines — Six administration allies in the Senate have backtracked and clarified that they were abstaining from voting on a resolution earlier adopted by the chamber urging the President Duterte to rethink his plan to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) pending review.
During its session Tuesday afternoon, the same day the Philippines sent the VFA termination notice to the US, six senators manifested that they would have abstained from voting on the resolution.
Duterte’s closest ally in the Senate stressed the chief executive’s power over the country’s foreign policy.
“Clearly each senator is entitled to his or her own personal opinion. Nevertheless, while I respect the views of my fellow senators, I personally believe that as Chief Executive and Chief Architect of our foreign policy, it is within his power and prerogative to cause the review and termination of treaties and agreements, taking into consideration the best interests of our sovereign democracy,” Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, Duterte’s long-time aide, said.
“The President has already expressed his view on the matter, and it is my position that we should respect the President’s decision,” he added.
Senator Francis Tolentino also underscored the power of the President over treaties.
“Does the President have the power to abrogate a treaty under the 1987 Constitution? I say yes, considering the President’s role as the chief architect of our nation’s foreign policy,” he said.
“This includes the decision to terminate the existing Visiting Forces Agreement, a political process with regional and international consequences. This goes into the very essence of executive power, which in Art. VII, Sec. 1 of the 1987 Constitution, is vested in the sole person of the President of the Philippines,” he further explained.
The other senators who expressed abstention on voting on the resolution were Imee Marcos, Pia Cayetano, Cynthia Villar and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
Marcos initially moved to have her vote reconsidered but later on just issued a manifestation that she would have abstained if she had been aware that there was such a motion to approve the said resolution was taking place.
“Given that I, in fact, have an alternate resolution… that makes no mention of advisement or pressure upon the President who clearly has a free hand in the formulation of foreign policy,” she said.
Sen. Pia Cayetano echoed Marcos and also expressed her intent to abstain while underscoring the Senate’s duty to look into international conventions, treaties, and agreements entered into by the Philippines.
“Very similar to Senator Marcos, if I was in the hall at the time of the adoption, I would have put on record my abstention, I support a similar view to the resolution filed by Senators Marcos that does not include specifically advising or urging the President but just keeping in mind on our continuing duty to study international conventions, treaties (and) agreements that affect our country,” Cayetano said.
The resolution Marcos earlier filed calls for the urgent review of the validity and implementation of the VFA.
Senators Cynthia Villar and Ramon “Bong” Revilla also manifested that they would have abstained from voting on the resolution.
Senate Resolution No. 312 — which was adopted without objections the night before the Philippines officially sent the notice of termination of the VFA to the US — was contained in Committee Report 43 of the Senate foreign relations panel.
Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, whose visa cancellation triggered Duterte’s threat to scrap the VFA, abstained from voting on the resolution the night it was adopted.
“Seven would have abstained [including Dela Rosa] but there were 20 in the quorum. Therefore, the resolution would still have been adopted,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III pointed out after the manifestations of the six senators were placed on record.
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