Press Release
March 4, 2020

Dispatch from Crame No. 729:
Sen. Leila M. de Lima's Statement on the Adoption of Senate Resolution No. 337


I support the move of Senate President Sotto, as backed up by a majority vote of the Senate, to bring before the Supreme Court the matter of requiring Senate concurrence in the abrogation of treaties and international agreements.

Although SP Sotto's Resolution does not categorically express the position that Senate concurrence is necessary in the abrogation of treaties, the mere fact that it is elevating the issue to the SC necessarily implies that at least a majority of the Senate intends to defend the power and prerogative of the body on matters relating to the termination of treaties and international agreements.

Personally, I would have preferred that what was adopted was the Drilon Resolution (Proposed Senate Res. No. 305) which I co-authored, a stronger version which expresses the sense of the Senate that the termination of, or withdrawal from treaties and international agreements concurred in by the Senate shall be valid and effective only upon concurrence of the Senate. Nevertheless, the adoption of the Sotto Resolution, Res. No. 337, is sufficient enough as an expression of this desire to challenge the President's authoritarian interpretation of the Constitution when it comes to laying down foreign policy and articulating the national interest in international affairs.

It has always been my position that the Senate, as an institution consisting of the direct representatives of the people elected nationally, is constitutionally mandated to actively lay down foreign policy as the expression of the national interest in international affairs. The very design and spirit of the 1987 Constitution that favors checks and balances over concentration of power is clear on this.

While the President is indeed the chief architect of foreign policy, he designs this in partnership with the Senate. It is a shared power. Once foreign policy is jointly acted upon by the President and the Senate in the form of a treaty or international agreement, this becomes the law of the land, and the Executive cannot unilaterally reverse, modify, annul, or repeal this law unless concurred in by the Senate, or another law is passed by Congress as a whole.

Foreign policy expressed in treaties and international agreements forms part of Philippine law. Only with Senate concurrence or an act of Congress can treaties and international agreements be thereafter repealed, reversed, modified, annulled, or otherwise terminated. Malacanang's unilateral act of treaty abrogation therefore puts the President above the law. But no one is above the law, not even Duterte, no matter how much we allowed him to be in the past.

Another key point, and something Sen. Hontiveros and I stressed in our Joint Memorandum filed in the case questioning Duterte's unilateral withdrawal from the Rome Statute/ICC, is this. More than an Executive or a Legislative act, treaty-making, and, thus, treaty-unmaking, is a sovereign act of the Filipino people acting through the joint actions of two branches of government. Two branches, not one. For one branch to undo what the sovereign Filipino people have done through their representatives would be a usurpation of the sovereign prerogative. The President is not sovereign. He is not king. He is but a representative and, in the case of treaties, he possesses no monopolistic claim of representation. He shares it with the Senate. It offends both reason and the intent of the Constitution to hold that while two keys are needed to secure a treaty, only one is needed to disturb or abandon it.

Finally, we cannot and should not allow the repudiation of a treaty based on the personal hostility, whims, caprices and self-serving interests of one individual, that of an unstable Head of State. Senate must step in to check on his abuses. And the Supreme Court, both in the earlier Petition on the ICC withdrawal and now, in the proper case soon to be filed on the VFA abrogation, must allow the Senate to do so. ###

(Access the handwritten version of Dispatch from Crame No. 729, here:

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