Feb 17, 2021 @ 23:54

Kabisado Konstitusyon! Panelo lectures Lacson on ‘flawed’ VFA stance

MANILA – It was not surprising for Senator Panfilo Lacson to justify his “flawed” position that the abrogation of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (US) needs the Senate’s concurrence, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Wednesday.

In a press statement, Panelo lectured Lacson that Section 21 of Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution is “not applicable” to VFA.

Panelo made the remarks a day after Lacson told President Rodrigo Duterte that any treaty or international agreement needs concurrence from the Senate.

According to the provision in the Constitution cited by Panelo and Lacson, “no treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all members of the Senate.”

“Unsurprisingly and expectedly, not being schooled in law, Senator Lacson erroneously cited Article VII, Section 21 of the 1987 Constitution to justify his flawed narrative. The constitutional provision talks of conditions on when an international agreement may become valid and effective,” Panelo said.

Being a “non-lawyer,” Lacson “necessarily and mistakenly believe[d]” that he has a role in the Philippines’ present policy on VFA, Panelo said.

“To be fair to non-lawyers, a plain reading of the constitutional provision will immediately lead them to that understanding — that senators have a role in prospective international agreements, not in existing ones. No wonder Senator Lacson found refuge on such provision,” he said.

Panelo, however, said it is “amusing” that Lacson advised Duterte who is “learned and trained in law” about the provision of the country’s charter.

“The on-going talks about the existing VFA fall under the country’s foreign relations, which the President, as clearly expressed by the Constitution, is the chief architect of. Not only is he the Chief Executive and the Commander-in-Chief, he is the Head of State as well, who can end diplomatic ties with any country at will when national interest so requires,” he said.

Panelo said the Senate’s official participation in international agreements is when the President “desires to enter into one and decides to submit it to the said chamber for concurrence.”

He said it would be “wise and prudent” for the senators to allow the President to handle the foreign relations of the country and support him.

“Adverse and offensive remarks will derail the President’s strategic stance in promoting our interest and sovereignty,” Panelo said.

Some senators in March 2020 asked the Supreme Court (SC) to issue clarification about their role in the cancellation of treaties. Their petition remains pending before SC.

Duterte on Feb. 11, 2020 scrapped the VFA, a defense deal which gives US troops the privilege to visit the Philippines without visa and passport.

The VFA termination was supposed to take effect in August last year, but Duterte decided to postpone the revocation for six months due to “political and other developments in the region.”

Duterte, in a speech delivered on Feb. 12, said the US should “pay” the Philippines first before he reconsiders another suspension of VFA abrogation. (PNA)

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