Lawmakers are free to challenge the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States before the Supreme Court (SC), Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.
“Senators may bring up the issue of the VFA termination to the Supreme Court if they are minded to do so,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters.
Guevarra, however, said the Constitution does not mention anything about the requirement of the Senate’s concurrence on the termination of treaties.
“Although a treaty is considered part of the law of the land, it does not belong to the class of ordinary statutes that pass through the entire legislative process; its abrogation is not similar to the repeal of an ordinary statute,” Guevarra said.
He said the issue of whether the President should at least consult the Senate on the matter is a political question that the Supreme Court will certainly refuse to resolve.
Guevarra also conceded that the termination of the VFA will make the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) “a hollow agreement” among its negative repercussions.
The MDT, signed by the Philippines and the US in 1951, guarantees that both countries will support each other in the event of an “armed attack” on each country’s territory, armed forces, public vessels or aircraft.
“But again note this: we survived the historic termination of the (PH)-US military bases agreement; there’s no reason why we shall not survive the termination of a mere visiting forces agreement,” Guevarra said.
On Tuesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs sent the Philippine government’s notice of termination of the VFA to the US Embassy in Manila.
The VFA, signed by Manila and Washington DC in February 1998, exempts American forces from passport and visa regulations and allows them to use their permits and licenses in the Philippines.
The agreement also gives the US the jurisdiction over its troops who committed unlawful acts in the Philippines, unless these crimes can be punished in the host country. (PNA)