De Lima files bill requiring Senate concurrence in termination, repeal of treaties

De Lima files bill requiring Senate concurrence in termination, repeal of treaties

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima introduced a measure
providing for Senate concurrence in the abrogation, termination, or
repeal of treaties and international agreements.

De Lima filed Proposed Senate Bill (SB) No. 2436 which explicitly
requires the concurrence of at least two-thirds of the Senate to any
act of withdrawal from, or abrogation of, a treaty or an international
agreement, before the same becomes effective.

“This bill aims to protect the interests of our people by making sure
that the constitutional checks that are in place during our entry into
treaties remain so during our withdrawal from the same,” she said.

It may be recalled that, last March 15, 2018, the President
unilaterally announced that the Philippines was withdrawing from the
Rome Statute and, on the next day, the Notice of Withdrawal from the
International Criminal Court (ICC) was submitted to the United
Nations.

Petitions were subsequently filed with the Supreme Court questioning
the constitutionality of Mr. Duterte’s unilateral withdrawal from the
treaty, including a petition filed by opposition Senators, entitled
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, et al. v. Alan Peter Cayetano, et al., G.R.
No. 238875.

On 16 March 2021, the Supreme Court, in said case, proclaimed that
“the President’s discretion to withdraw [from treaties] is qualified
by the extent of legislative involvement in the manner by which a
treaty was entered into or came into effect.”

De Lima noted that, the Supreme Court, according to the Supreme Court
imposition of Senate concurrence as a condition may either be made
piecemeal, through individual Senate resolutions pertaining to
specific treaties, or through an encompassing legislative action, such
as a law, a joint resolution by Congress, or a comprehensive Senate
resolution.

“Thus, according to the Supreme Court, a law may be passed to impose
Senate concurrence as a condition prior to withdrawal from treaties,”
she said.

In highlighting the need for Senate concurrence, De Lima cited Retired
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who earlier
stated that “[i]f the Senate does not assert its prerogative to
concur, it will lose its prerogative to concur.”

The lady Senator from Bicol said the participation of the legislative
branch in the treaty-making process was deemed essential to provide a
check on the executive in the field of foreign relations.

“By requiring the concurrence of the legislature in the treaties
entered into by the President, the Constitution ensures a healthy
system of checks and balance necessary in the nation’s pursuit of
political maturity and growth,” she noted.

Even as the President has near-exclusive access to
information and expertise from our Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)
and his many sources of intelligence, De Lima stressed that the Senate
has two crucial things: a direct mandate from the people and the
constitutional power to disagree with the President in treaty-making.

Ultimately, De Lima said the Senate represents the legislative will of
the whole country that is why it stands to reason that Senate should
be able to express its power to give or withhold concurrence to the
withdrawal from treaties and international agreements, just as it is
able to express legislative concurrence to their ratification.

“In as much as law requires both executive and legislative action
before it is repealed, it is submitted that a treaty, akin to law,
should also require both executive and legislative action,” she said.

“Otherwise, it would lead and, indeed, has already led to an absurd
situation, whereby an action of unilateral withdrawal by the
Executive, not sanctioned by the Filipino people through their duly
elected representatives in the Legislature would be legally and
constitutionally invalid and, supposedly, ineffective domestically,
yet has been considered binding on the Philippines as a State on the
international level,” she added. (ai/mtvn)

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