Drilon files resolution asserting Senate’s role in treaty termination

Robie de Guzman   •   January 29, 2020   •   352

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and United States Armed Forces successfully completed an amphibious landing exercise as part of the annual Balikatan (BK) Exercise, 09 May 2018. (Photos by PFC Diego A Mariano/PAOAFP and NPAO)

MANILA, Philippines – Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday said he has filed a resolution asserting Senate’s role in the termination or withdrawal of a treaty, following President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to end the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States.

In filing Senate Resolution 305, Drilon said in a statement that the termination or withdrawal of any treaty and international agreement should only be valid and effective upon concurrence of the Senate.

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

“The power to bind the Philippines by a treaty and international agreement is vested jointly by the Constitution in the President and the Senate,” the resolution stated.

“A treaty or international agreement ratified by the President and concurred in by the Senate becomes part of the law of the land and may not be undone without the shared power that put it into effect,” it added.

Drilon also said that the sphere of foreign affairs is not within the exclusive powers of the President as held by the Supreme Court in Saguisag v. Executive Secretary (G.R. No. 212426, January 12, 2016).

“The principle of checks and balances, historical precedent and practice accepted as law in most jurisdictions, and the Constitution’s dictate for a shared treaty-making power require that a termination, withdrawal, abrogation or renunciation of a treaty or international agreement can only be done with the same authority that gave it effect – executive ratification with Senate concurrence,” he stressed in the resolution.

Drilon, along with 13 senators, first filed the resolution during the 17th Congress in 2017, stressing that the Senate should have a say when a treaty or international agreements concurred in by the upper chamber is terminated or abrogated.

Then neophyte Senator Manny Pacquiao, however, blocked its passage.

While the resolution did not pass, Drilon said that succeeding resolutions adopted by the Senate explicitly provides for provision requiring the concurrence of two-thirds of all the members of the Senate before a treaty concurred in by the Senate is terminated.

“The 17th Congress adopted 20 resolutions concurring in the ratification of or accession to various treaties and international agreements which provides “that the President of the Philippines may, with the concurrence of the Senate, withdraw from the Agreement,” the resolution stated.

These treaties include the Accession to the Protocol of 1988 International Convention for the Safety of Life At Sea, Accession to the Protocol of 1997 Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships, the Convention on Cybercrime, Asian Infrastructure Bank, a number of fishing agreement and ratification of the Paris Agreement.

US, PH soldiers build two classrooms in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Robie de Guzman   •   February 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Two new classrooms jointly built by United States and Philippine troops have been opened in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

The new classrooms were inaugurated on February 19, at the Malatgao National Elementary School, the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement.

US Navy Lt. Joshua Moore said the new learning facilities, built by American and Filipino soldiers under arrangements through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), will be used by over 100 students residing in the community.

“This project provides a much-needed schoolhouse for the Malatgao National Elementary School in Palawan, which will be utilized by over 120 students,” Moore was quoted as saying in the statement.

“We are proud to assist this community working hand-in-hand with our Filipino counterparts,” he added.

Under the VFA, US and Philippine troops participate in war and disaster response drills and assist in humanitarian projects like erecting multi-purpose buildings or helping repair schools.

The deal, which came into force in 1999, was terminated by President Rodrigo Duterte last week. The notice of termination will take effect after 180 days.

The US Embassy said that in the last four years, its Navy engineers, known as Seabees, have completed 24 humanitarian projects across the Philippines.  

These projects include single- and double-room classrooms, water catchment systems, multipurpose school huts, and multipurpose communal buildings.

Joint construction operations such as these between the Philippine Navy Seabees, U.S. Navy Seabees, Philippine Marines, and local Barangays serve to strengthen the U.S.-Philippine partnership.

“I think working with U.S. troops will make our alliance stronger and continue to increase our bonds for years to come,” said Apprentice Fireman Construction Electrician Joel Nioda from Zamboanga City.

“This will help unify and grow our bilateral relationship,” he added.

Since October 2016, the U.S. Navy Seabees construction projects for Philippine communities are valued at more than PHP100,000,000 ($1.9 Million).

SolGen move to gag ABS-CBN won’t stop Senate from probing franchise issue —Drilon

Robie de Guzman   •   February 18, 2020

Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon

MANILA, Philippines – Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday said that the move by the Office of the Solicitor General asking the Supreme Court to gag the ABS-CBN Corporation will not stop the Senate from requiring persons to appear and testify during its hearing on the issue.

“The Supreme Court cannot prohibit persons to appear and testify before congressional inquiries in aid of legislation,” Drilon said in a statement.

“The petition cannot prevent the Senate from hearing the issues on ABS-CBN. The petition has no effect on the Senate,” he added.

Drilon issued the statement after Solicitor General Jose Calida asked the SC to stop ABS-CBN and other parties concerned from discussing the quo warranto petition which seeks to void the broadcasting network’s franchise over its alleged violations.

Calida’s move follows the decision of the Senate committee on public services to hear the issue on ABS-CBN’s application for the renewal of its franchise, and the filing of a Senate resolution which seeks to extend the validity of the company’s franchise until the end of 2022.

ABS-CBN’s 25-year franchise is set to expire on March 30, 2020.

Drilon said that even if the Supreme Court issues a gag order, it will not cover the hearings in the Senate.

“Such gag order, if ordered, cannot serve as a prohibition for ABS-CBN to appear and testify before the Senate panel,” he said.

He also emphasized that the Constitution and various jurisprudence have many times upheld the power of the Senate to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation and to exercise its oversight power.

The senator cited Section 21, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, which states that the Senate or the House of Representatives or any of its respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure.

He also stressed that it is the duty of the witnesses and resource persons to cooperate with the Senate in its efforts to obtain the facts needed for intelligent legislative action.

Resolution seeking to extend ABS-CBN franchise to end of 2022 filed in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   February 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A resolution seeking to extend the franchise of media network ABS-CBN Corporation up to the end of 2022 has been filed at the Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday said he filed Senate Joint Resolution No. 11 which seeks to extend the validity of the ABS-CBN franchise until December 31, 2022, in order to give Congress enough time to study the various bills seeking the renewal of franchise it granted to the network.

He noted there are only 12 session days left before Congress adjourns its sessions on March 14.

Republic Act 7966, enacted into law on March 30, 1995, grants the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation a franchise “to construct, operate and maintain, for commercial purposes and in the public interest, television and radio broadcasting stations in and throughout the country. The term of the franchise is for 25 years, which is set to expire on March 30, 2020.

“On March 30, 2020, more than 11,000 families will go home jobless and millions of viewers will be affected if we do not act on this resolution immediately, I, therefore, urge for the immediate passage of this resolution,” Drilon said.

The senator filed the resolution a few days after Solicitor General Jose Calida questioned ABS-CBN’s compliance with its franchise terms.

Calida filed a quo warranto petition asking the Supreme Court to forfeit the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation, citing alleged violations.

The high court has asked the media company to comment on the Solicitor General’s petition.

Several lawmakers have argued that the mandate to review, grant and revoke franchises is exclusive to the legislative branch.

Some also said that the media giant may still continue its operations pending the approval of its application for renewal.

Drilon said there are 12 bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise still pending in the House Committee on Legislative Franchises. A counterpart bill at the Senate also remains pending at the committee level.

Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe has pushed for a separate probe into ABS-CBN’s franchise and operations issue to determine its compliance with the terms and conditions of its franchise.

Poe earlier called on her fellow legislators to make their assurances concrete by declaring it verbally or putting it into writing.

“Kahit sabihin pa nila na pwede naman ‘yan i-extend hanggang 2022, maganda siguro kung in writing o kaya at least verbally sabihin ng Kongreso, ‘We commit to give ABS-CBN through the National Telecommunications Commission a temporary permit to operate’ kasi hindi naman ‘yan nakasulat sa batas,” she said.

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