SENATE President Vicente Sotto 3rd on Thursday said the ratification and termination of any treaty entered into by the Philippine government needs Senate concurrence.
Sotto stressed that such concurrence is required under the rules of the chamber.
Last Tuesday, the Duterte administration formally notified the United States Embassy of the Philippine government’s decision to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
A day earlier, the Senate adopted Resolution 312 urging President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his decision to terminate the pact.
“It appears that it is still in effect because there are 180 days before it is totally terminated based on the agreement itself,” Sotto said in a radio interview.
“But, yesterday, we conducted a study, because there is a thinking in the Senate that any treaty or agreement entered into by the government will not be effective if it is not ratified by the Senate and, just the same, if it will be canceled or terminated, the Senate must concur as the ratifying body,” he added.
Malacañang has been insisting that scrapping the VFA does not need the Senate’s concurrence, sparking debate on whether the executive branch was usurping congressional authority.
Sotto said he ordered a study on the matter “and it turned out that it (concurrence in the ratification and termination of a treaty) is embodied in our rules.”
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, one of the authors of Resolution 312, said even without the VFA, “the Filipino people are resilient and our soldiers are no different.”
“We will survive, no doubt. We know how to improvise and we can adapt to crises the way we did many times before,” he added.
Lacson appeared to agree with Armed Forces chief Felimon Santos Jr., who said the Philippines could “move on without” the VFA since it could forge defense treaties with other countries.
But Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defense, lamented that “the timing and reasons for its abrogation are way off the mark.”
“Exploring other options like inking similar defense treaties with other nations, as posited by the CSAFP (chief of staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines) is fine, but the reality is, it doesn’t happen overnight,” Lacson said in a text message.
“It will take a series of back-and-forth negotiations in the pursuit of the concerned parties’ self and national interests before it goes through lengthy deliberations for ratification by the Senate,” he continued.
While negotiations are going on, “we are exposed to terrorist threats, both domestic and foreign, not to mention the continuing security threat in the WPS (West Philippine Sea) posed by China, and even the timely humanitarian response and assistance that the US is capable of deploying during disasters, natural or man-made,” Lacson said.
“The thing is, it is not the smartest move of the President to expose ourselves naked first before looking for other options for cover,” he added.
The maintenance and repair of military hardware, mostly air assets provided by the US under the AFP modernization program, would also be affected, the senator said.