Senate adopts resolution seeking SC ruling on Senate role in treaty abrogation

/ 04:41 PM March 02, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Monday adopted a resolution seeking to clarify with the Supreme Court if the concurrence of the upper chamber would be needed in treaty abrogation.

During the Senate session Monday afternoon, the body adopted Senate Resolution No. 337 expressing the sense of the Senate “respectfully asking the Supreme Court to rule” if Senate concurrence would be necessary for treaty termination.


“Although it is clear from the provisions of the 1987 Constitution that the concurrence of at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate is necessary for the validity of. treaty or international agreement there is obviously a lacuna legis—or an absence of an explicit provision in the 1987 Constitution as to whether or not the concurrence of the Senate is necessary for the termination of any treaty earlier concurred in by the body,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said when he sponsored the resolution on the floor.

“Now it involves important constitutional question brought about by the executive’s withdrawal from an agreement or a treaty like the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) as well as the earlier Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court (ICC) which affect the core of the constitutional mechanism of checks and balances,” he added.


Sotto was referring to the military accord ratified by the Senate in 1999 and ICC from which the Philippines formally withdrew from in March 2019.

“The resolution before us now does not question any of the two issues of the issue on ICC or the VFA. The resolution simply seeks to find out if the power to ratify carries with it, the power to concur in abrogation,” Sotto pointed out.

“Remember there is no treaty if we do not ratify. The executive and the legislative branches of government have a shared competency on treaty making. So it is the submission of this representation and many other members of the Senate that the concurrence of the Senate is necessary not only to accede to a treaty but also to its abrogation. A theory which is in adherence to the mirror principle,” he added.

Sotto then quoted Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra during the Senate public services committee on the franchise of ABS-CBN.

“As earlier manifested by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on the ABS-CBN franchise, that ‘when there is a gap in law, equity comes in to fill in the gap.’ Since there is a gap in the law in this case, maybe the same principle can be adopted,” he said.

“I respectfully adhere to the rule that yes the president of the Philippines is the sole representative of our country in foreign affairs and I do not intend to go against the tide, I just want clarity. We want clarity and I hope once and for all, the honorable supreme court shed light on this purely question of law,” he added.

Speaking with reporters before the Senate session, Sotto said the resolution—once adopted— will be incorporated into the petition he plans to file together with other senators before the Supreme Court.


Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the intended petition in the high court would “settle the question of the definition of the constitutional boundaries in terms of foreign relations is concerned between this chamber and the president.”

For her part, Senator Risa Hontiveros said that while she maintains her opposition to the VFA, she “cannot agree that the executive can unilaterally withdraw from treaties without Senate concurrence.”

“Indeed there is a lacuna in the law. But in the absence of any clarity in legislation, it is prudent to err on the side of greater checks between the branches of government,” she added.

Twelve senators voted in favor of the resolution and seven abstained.

Sotto, Drilon, Hontiveros, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Senators Richard Gordon, Panfilo Lacson, Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Lito Lapid, Francis Pangilinan, and Joel Villanueva supported the resolution.

Meanwhile, Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Christopher “Bong” Go, Imee Marcos, Aquilino Pimentel III, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Francis Tolentino and Cynthia Villar abstained from voting on the resolution.

No negative votes were recorded.


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TAGS: Senate Concurrence, Supreme Court, treaty abrogation, treaty termination, VFA, Vicente Sotto III, Visiting Forces Agreement
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