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Senators mulling to file petition on VFA termination before SC —Lacson

Senators are mulling to file a petition before the Supreme Court to clarify the role of the Senate regarding the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Sunday.

In a Dobol B sa News TV interview, Lacson said that while they have yet to finalize the move, there were talks in the Senate to file the petition before the high tribunal in order to set the record straight regarding the Senate's role in the termination of bilateral treaties.

"Mga haka-haka ito, mga komentaryo na sinasabing 'baka,' ganun ang pananalita na binitiwan mismo ng aming Senate President [Vicente Sotto III]. Baka maghain ang mga senador ng petition sa Korte Supreme para linawin," he said.

"Mainam na rin na ma-clarify yun para matigil na rin yung mga haka-haka tulad nito, para malinaw. Kasi kapag naging part na ng jurisprudence, ibig sabihin alam na ng executive branch, alam na ng legislative branch o Senado particularly," he added.

Under the 1987 Constitution, it was only during the ratification of a treaty that Senate action is needed.

Currently, a petition is pending before the Supreme Court against the Philippines' withdrawal from the establishing treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The petition, filed by six opposition senators, asked the high court to declare as "invalid and ineffective" the Philippines' backing out from the Rome Statute of the ICC without the concurrence of at least two-thirds of the Senate.

Lacson said the Supreme Court ruling for the petition against ICC withdrawal may be applied to the possible petition on the VFA depending on the language to be used by the high court.

"Kung sakaling ma-grant yung petition, depende kung masasaklaw yung ibang treaties. Pero sa tingin ko, dahil hindi naman kinwestiyon yung ibang treaties at ang kinwestiyon lang ay yung withdrawal sa ICC, doon sa Rome Statute, baka yun lang ang gawan ng ruling ng Supreme Court," he said.

Lacson said the Supreme Court's clarification on the matter will allow senators to know the way forward on future instances of termination of a treaty.

"Kapag merong mga tratado na ira-ratify namin, more or less, mafo-forsee na namin ang aming role kapag unilaterally in-abrogate ng ating bansa sa pamamagitan ng Pangulo," he said.

Ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999, the VFA governs the conduct of visiting US personnel holding military exercises in the Philippines.

Duterte had sought the termination of the VFA after the US canceled the visa of Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, his close ally, reportedly over the former national police chief’s involvement in the deadly war on drugs.

The VFA would be deemed terminated upon a party's written notice of its intention to end the agreement, which becomes effective after 180 days from such notification.

On Tuesday afternoon, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced that he has already signed and delivered the notice of termination of the VFA to the US, adding that the latter has already received it. —Erwin Colcol/LBG, GMA News