Press Release
August 1, 2021

Drilon: Shifting stance on VFA validates position that foreign policy should be a shared power with the Senate

The President's ever-changing and shifting stance on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) validates our position that foreign policy, as affirmed by the Supreme Court in Pangilinan v. Cayetano, should be a shared power and responsibility between the President and the Senate and that it cannot be left to the President alone.

"Foreign policy is not exclusive to the President. It is a shared power with the Senate. It cannot be left to the President alone since it involves policy issues, and Congress is the policy making body in our system of government," Drilon stressed.

Drilon said the latest decision of the President to recall the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), after much hemming and hawing, proves that foreign policy is a function that cannot be left alone to the President.

After unilaterally terminating the VFA on February 11, 2020, the President recalled his decision several times in June 2020, in November 2020 and in June 2021 until he decided to retract the termination last Friday.

Drilon noted that "the President's latest action comes on the heels of the Supreme Court landmark ruling involving the President's withdrawal from the Rome Statute, wherein the Supreme Court affirms the need for Senate's concurrence in the withdrawal from treaties and international agreements."

In Pangilinan v Cayetano, the Supreme Court held: "The President cannot unilaterally withdraw from treaties that were entered into pursuant to the legislative intent manifested in prior laws, or subsequently affirmed by succeeding laws. Treaties where Senate concurrence for accession is expressly premised on the same concurrence for withdrawal likewise cannot be the subject of unilateral withdrawal."

That termination of the VFA must be with the concurrence of the Senate is an issue now pending in the SC, Drilon noted.

It can be recalled that in 2020, Senate President Vicente Sotto III along with Drilon, Senators Richard Gordon, Panfilo Lacson, Ralph Recto and Miguel Zubiri asked the Supreme Court to render a decision declaring that the withdrawal from or termination of a treaty or international agreement requires the concurrence of the Senate.

Meanwhile, Drilon said he sees this as renewed efforts to strengthen the bilateral relations and military alliance between the Philippines and United States, who have shared decades of deeper bilateral relationship and diplomatic ties that are anchored on trust, respect and understanding.

Entered into force in 1999, the VFA served as the basis for the resumption of the bilateral military exercises between the Philippines and US and defined the treatment of United States troops and personnel visiting the Philippines. The VFA also serves as the implementing agreement to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, Drilon explained.

Through the VFA, the Philippines and the United States were able to share information, surveillance and perform reconnaissance operations in the West Philippine Sea and Mindanao, according to Drilon.

"The continuation of the VFA can help the country in so many areas most particularly with regard to the preservation of our rights over parts of the West Philippine Sea," Drilon stressed.

The minority leader cited how the VFA has enabled the US to provide support to the AFP in terms of capability building and acquisition of military equipment.

Drilon noted that the Philippines has received approximately P34 billion in State Department military grant assistance since VFA took effect in 1999.

He also cited that because the VFA was in place, the U.S. military, during typhoons, was able to provide urgent needed and humanitarian relief assistance such as during Typhoon Haiyan.

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