CJ Peralta hopes verdict on Maguindanao massacre will be issued before year-end

Maris Federez   •   November 8, 2019   •   361

FILE PHOTO: Journalism students of Bulacan State University light candles in commemoration of the 4th anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre in front of Bulacan Capitol, Malolos City, Bulacan. Photo taken November 21, 2013. | PVI/Junnel Aquino

The Supreme Court (SC) has allowed Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes a 30-day extension in issuing her verdict on the Maguindanao Massacre case.

The case has already been submitted for resolution on August 22 and the court was supposed to come up with a verdict within 90 days or until the third week of November but Judge Reyes requested an extension.

CJ Peralta said they understand Reyes’ predicament due to the voluminous records and evidence that she had to consider which prompted the Supreme Court to approve her request for a one-month extension.

“We also allow meritorious motion for extension and we understand her predicament,” said Peralta.

The chief magistrate, however, expressed hope that Judge Reyes will no longer ask for another extension in issuing her verdict on the case.

“I hope that she will no longer ask for another extension so that before the end of the year those cases will finally be decided,” he said.

According to the memorandum that the SC sent to Reyes, she has until December 30 to arrive at a decision and it is already non-extendible.

On November 23, 2009, armed men ambushed 58 individuals, including 32 members of the media, in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Among the slain was the wife of former Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu who was supposed to file his certificate of candidacy for Maguindanao gubernatorial election, opposing the Ampatuan clan.

The Maguindanao Massacre is considered the world’s worst election-related incident of violence and the deadliest attack against the members of the media. (from the report of Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

Supreme Court says no date yet on release of 2019 Bar Exam results

Robie de Guzman   •   April 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court clarified it has not yet set any date for the release of the 2019 Bar Examination results.

The high court issued the statement following information circulating on social media and other platforms about the Bar Exams results.

“There is a spurious document currently circulating in social media and in various electronic messaging platforms stating that the results of the 2019 Bar Examinations will be released on a certain date,” said 2019 Bar Chairperson SC Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

Perlas-Bernabe said the Court en Banc has yet to meet to decide on the date of release of the Bar Exams results.

“As chairperson of the 2019 Bar Examination, I categorically state that the information is false and that the Court En Banc is yet to meet to decide on the date of the release of the results,” she said.

“The Supreme Court will only release official documents and information relative to the Bar Examinations only through its Public Information Office,” she added.

She assured the public that the incident is being investigated and that those found responsible for the circulating false information shall be dealt with accordingly.

Senators ask SC to define Senate’s role in treaty abrogation

Robie de Guzman   •   March 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III and five other senators on Monday, March 9 filed a petition urging the Supreme Court (SC) to rule on whether or not the Senate’s concurrence is necessary in the abrogation of a treaty previously concurred in by the upper chamber.

In a 56-page petition for declaratory relief and mandamus, Sotto and Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Ralph Recto, Franklin Drilon, Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon asked the SC to declare that a treaty previously concurred in by the Senate should require the concurrence of at least two thirds of its members upon its withdrawal.

The lawmakers also requested the SC to order the executive branch to send the withdrawal notation to the Senate for votation.

The petition was filed after the Department of Foreign Affairs on February 11 notified the United States of its intention to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement, which was signed between Manila and Washington in 1999.

The deal outlines the guidelines about the treatment of their troops when visiting the US or the Philippines. It includes provisions on visa and passport policies for US troops and the American government’s right to retain jurisdiction over its personnel, among others.

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the final termination of the VFA following the US’ move to cancel the visa of his ally, former National Police chief and now Senator Ronald Dela Rosa. Duterte has also repeatedly criticized the US for its ‘disrespectful’ actions including meddling in the country’s internal affairs.

The military pact will be effectively terminated on August 9 or 180 days from the US’ receipt of the notice of termination.

Named respondents in the petition were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.

“As such, the Senate has until August 9, 2020 or the 180th day from the Notice of Withdrawal within which to question the unilateral withdrawal by the President from the VFA,” the petition stated.

“(The) Senate brings the present petition before the Honorable Court to fully and finally settle the issue of the requirement for concurrence by at least two-thirds of all members of the Senate in cases where the Philippines, through the executive department, decides to withdraw from, or terminate a treaty that was duly concurred in by the Senate,” the petition stated.

The senators, however, clarified that they do not intend to undermine the President’s prerogative of implementing the country’s independent foreign policy.

They added that the petition “merely seeks” to subject the notice of withdrawal to the proper deliberative process by the Senate, as required by Section 21, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution.

“Specifically, the petition seeks to address the issue of whether the foregoing constitutional provision requiring the concurrence of at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate also applies to termination of or withdrawing from treaties that have been validly ratified by the President and concurred in by the Senate,” the lawmakers said.

They cited the petition filed by members of the Senate minority bloc in May 2018, urging the high court to review the constitutionality of the executive department’s unilateral revocation of the Rome Statute.

“The recurrence of the issue in such a short period of time highlights the urgency for a definitive ruling on the matter for the demarcation and constitutional limits of the fundamental powers of government,” the senators said.

“The unilateral revocation by the executive of any treaty or international agreement without Senate concurrence violates the principle of checks and balances and separation of powers enshrined in the 1987 Constitution,” they added.

Last week, 12 senators voted in favor of adopting Resolution No. 337 which seeks to ask the SC to rule on the issue. Seven senators abstained from the petition.

Senate adopts resolution asking SC to clarify chamber’s role in ending treaties

Robie de Guzman   •   March 2, 2020

Senate President Vicente Tito Sotto III sponsors Senate Resolution 337 asking the Supreme Court to rule on whether or not the concurrence of the Senate is necessary for the abrogation of a treaty. (Senate of the Philippines Facebook Page)

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Monday agreed to adopt a resolution asking the Supreme Court to clarify the upper chamber’s role in ending treaties following President Rodrigo Duterte’s abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.

Twelve senators voted in favor to adopt Resolution No. 337, while seven abstained. No senators voted against the resolution.

The resolution urges the Supreme Court to rule on whether or not the Senate’s concurrence is necessary for the abrogation of a treaty it previously concurred in.

In presenting the resolution on the floor, Senate President Vicente Sotto III emphasized “the need to clarify the question of law citing the grey area in the 1987 Constitution on matters concerning the termination of a treaty.”

“We want clarity and I hope that once and for all the honorable SC could shed light on this purely question of law,” Sotto said in his speech.

Under the Philippine constitution, the Senate’s concurrence is required before a treaty can be ratified but it says nothing on its role when it comes to the termination of treaties and international agreement.

Section 21, Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution provides, “no treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.”

On the other hand, Section 25, Article 18 of the 1987 Constitution states, “after the expiration in 1991 of the agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning military bases, foreign military bases, troops or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty, duly concurred in by the Senate and when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.”

“Although it is clear from the provisions of the 1987 Constitution that the concurrence of at least two-thirds of all the members is necessary for a validity of a 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,” Sotto said.

The VFA between Washington and Manila came into force in 1999. It outlines the guidelines about the treatment of their troops when visiting the US or the Philippines. It includes provisions on visa and passport policies for US troops and the American government’s right to retain jurisdiction over its personnel, among others.

Earlier this month, Duterte ordered the formal termination of the VFA following the US’ move to cancel the visa of his ally, former National Police chief and now Senator Ronald Dela Rosa. Duterte has also repeatedly criticized the US for its ‘disrespectful’ actions including meddling in the country’s internal affairs.

The military deal will be effectively terminated on August 9 or 180 days from the US’ receipt of the notice of termination.

Sotto, however, emphasized that the resolution does not seek to question the president’s decision to withdraw from the military pact.

“The resolution simply seeks to find out if the power to ratify carries with it the power to concur in abrogation,” Sotto said underscoring the Executive’s and the Legislative’s shared competency on treaty-making.

The Senate President also said that the question being raised involves an issue of “transcendental importance” that impacts on the country’s constitutional checks and balances.

“The ambiguity of the concurrence of the Senate in the abrogation of treaty involves an issue of transcendental importance that impact on the country’s constitutional checks and balances,” the measure read.

“It presents a constitutional issue that seriously affects the country’s legal system as well as the country’s relations with the international community,” it added.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon expressed disappointment that the resolution did not get a unanimous vote from the lawmakers.

“All we’re asking the Supreme Court is to define our Constitutional boundaries – nothing else, nothing more. We are not dictating on the Supreme Court. For all you know, the Supreme Court may rule that the Senate’s concurrence is not necessary and that settles the issue,” he said.

The resolution was sponsored by Sotto and co-sponsored by Senators Drilon, Panfilo Lacson, Richard Gordon, and Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri. Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Risa Hontiveros, Lito Lapid, Francis Pangilinan, Joel Villanueva, and Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto also voted for the resolution.

Those who abstained were Senators Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Imee Marcos, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Francis Tolentino and Cynthia Villar.

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