Senator Richard Gordon said Monday that absolutism has no place in Philippine government as the Senate asserted before the Supreme Court its role in treaty withdrawals.
"I'm sure my colleagues here will agree na dapat talaga there cannot be absolutism in our government. We are a democracy, there are three branches of government that must coalesce with one another," Gordon told reporters.
On behalf of the Senate, Gordon, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and Senator Panfilo Lacson went to the SC to file a petition seeking a declaration that the Senate's concurrence is needed in the withdrawal or termination of treaties.
They filed the petition almost a month after Manila notified the United States of its intention to terminate the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which governs the conditions under which American soldiers may be present in the Philippines.
Without asking the High Court to void the notice of withdrawal, the senators want the executive department compelled to send the notice to the Senate for voting.
"At times there will be nip and tuck, push and pull. Ang importante dito ay malalaman na palaging merong counterbalance sa anumang gagawin ng presidente laban sa Senado [at] gagawin ng Senado laban sa presidente. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ang magsasabi kung ano talaga ang karapatan ng bawat isa," Gordon said.
Their petition is a request to delineate the boundaries of the powers of the executive branch and of the Senate, Drilon said.
It is backed by a resolution that the Senate adopted last week. Twelve senators voted in favor of Senate Resolution 337, while Senators Ronald Dela Rosa, Christopher Go, Imee Marcos, Aquilino Pimentel III, Bong Revilla, Francis Tolentino, and Cynthia Villar abstained.
Lacson said this resolution strengthens their SC petition. "We're not filing this petition in our individual capacity as senators, but we're backed by the whole Senate because of that Senate Resolution 337," he said.
Unlike now, there was no adopted Senate resolution that backed the opposition senators who earlier questioned the Philippines' withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In that case, the petitioners asked the SC to nullify the ICC withdrawal because it was not approved by at least 2/3 of all the members of the Senate.
The petition, which is still pending, was filed by Drilon, Senators Francis Pangilinan, Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros, and then-senators Antonio Trillanes IV, and Bam Aquino.
"'Di ako nasama sa pagpirma eh," Gordon said of the ICC petition.
Asked why there was no similar Senate resolution in the ICC case, Lacson said: "Hindi naipasa eh. Kung may naipasang gano'n, in-adopt ng buong Senado, then probably we could have also signed as co-petitioners."
"In this case, merong Senate resolution na naka-back up dito so we're here as co-petitioners," the senator said.
The ICC and the VFA cases ask the same question: Is Senate concurrence -- which is needed for treaties to take effect -- also required when the treaties are terminated or withdrawn?
Government lawyers argued in the ICC issue that the Constitution is silent on the need for Senate approval in cases of treaty withdrawals.
This time, the Senate argued that "any act of the Chief Executive which affects the validity and effectivity of a treaty... necessarily requires the concurrence of the Senate."—AOL, GMA News