Press Release
August 16, 2013

Drilon tells DFA, DND to brief Senate and to strictly adhere to Constitution
On increased US military presence

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon on Friday/August 16 told the Foreign Affairs and National Defense departments to brief and orient the Senate on outcomes of initial talks between the Philippine and the United States governments on the proposed expansion of the American military presence in the country.

The Senate chief likewise urged both departments to observe strict compliance with the Constitution and ensure that the proposal is not a move to make the US military's presence in the country permanent.

"The American troops' presence in the country is based on the Visiting Forces Agreement which the Senate ratified. Given that, their presence must be governed by the terms of the VFA," said Drilon.

"There was not part in the VFA that allows permanent basing. The framework agreement should be in accordance with the restrictions set forth under the VFA," he added.

Drilon nonetheless reassured the two departments of the Senate's cooperation in the government's resolve to bolster its defense and security capabilities.

"The Senate can be counted upon as an active partner in the diplomatic and national defense concerns our nation, in the context and within the confines of our Constitution, laws, and treaty obligations," emphasized Drilon.

But if Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario's claim that any activity under the framework agreement will be governed by the Visiting Forces Agreement will hold true and be carried out until a final agreement is signed, Drilon said ratification by the Senate will no longer be necessary.

"We affirmed our commitment to the United Nations Charter and under the Mutual Defense Treaty. We also agreed that any activity under the framework agreement will be governed by the Visiting Forces Agreement," Del Rosario said in a letter to Drilon.

While Drilon gave Del Rosario assurance that the Senate will be cooperative on the proposed expansion, the Senate President vowed to scrutinize every detail of the framework agreement in order to ensure that it will not infringe on the Constitution.

"The devil is in the details. As a senator, it is my obligation to our people to ensure that any agreement the government will enter into is legal and in accordance with our Constitution. I will examine the outcome of the negotiations to see to it that it will not infringe on the lives of our people and their guaranteed rights," stressed Drilon.

He also said that the ongoing negotiation should be characterized by transparency.

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