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

Robie de Guzman   •   March 2, 2020   •   829

 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.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Peralta to retire early

Robie de Guzman   •   December 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta will retire a year early than his compulsory retirement, a high court official said Tuesday.

Supreme Court spokesperson Atty. Keith Hosaka said Peralta confirmed to him his intention to avail of early retirement but “did not elaborate further” on the reason.

“I have asked him personally and he confirmed it. The Chief Justice did not elaborate further but said that he will make a formal announcement in due time,” Hosaka said in a message to reporters.

Peralta will step down from office in March 2021 when he reaches the age of 69. The mandatory retirement age for justices and judges is 70.

Peralta was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte in October 2019.

When he retires, the Supreme Court’s most senior justices will be automatically nominated for the position subject to their confirmation. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

Supreme Court to implement 4-day work week starting Dec. 1

Robie de Guzman   •   November 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court will adopt a four-day work week scheme for all its officials and employees starting December 1.

In an administrative circular issued by Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, high court employees will work 10 hours a day or from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to complete the required 40 hours of work each week.

The justices will decide the operations schedule of their offices but all other high court offices and services will still be open from Mondays to Fridays with at least 80% personnel attendance.

The total number of employees in court offices will be divided into five groups, each comprising 20% of the total number of workers. Alternately, they will have to take one day leave during weekdays.

“Subject to the discretion of the Chiefs of Offices and services, the groupings, new work schedules and supposed rest day/day off may be changed or modified, upon prior notice to the employees,” the circular stated.

The practice of flexible time and overtime work for employees will be cancelled for the time being.

Peralta said the observance of a four-day work week is in line with the directive of the Civil Service Commission in October for implementation during the period of health emergency due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The Chief Justice also required the heads of the Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals, and all trial courts to prepare their guidelines for the workweek schedule.

Senate to probe massive flooding in Luzon after recent typhoons

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — A resolution that seeks to probe the “confluence of factors” that led to the massive flooding in Luzon after the recent typhoons has been filed in the Senate.

Senator Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr., the author of the resolution, said the release of water from dams due to overcapacity should have been anticipated and measures should have been done in order to prevent the released water from reaching the homes of the citizens.

“We must anticipate that the dams will release water, so dapat may mga naka in-place na infrastruktura tulad ng dadaluyan ng tubig at sasalo nito, para huwag rumagasa at manalanta ng mga kabahayan, (there should have been infrastructures in-place which can direct the waterflow away from residential areas),” he said.

In a span of three weeks, five typhoons entered the Philippines which has greatly affected low-lying areas in Luzon. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s (NDRRMC) reported Typhoon Ulysses has displaced a total of 1,755,224 persons which is an equivalent of 428,657 families in 4,543 barangays in the affected areas.

Revilla hopes to aid in the legislation of necessary actions to prevent similar disasters from happening in the future. AAC

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