Sotto vows to uphold Senate independence after seeking SC ruling on treaty abrogation

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday vowed to uphold the Senate’s independence above political alliances, a day after he and his fellow senators filed a petition urging the Supreme Court to rule on whether on not the upper chamber has a role in the abrogation of treaties previously concurred on.

Sotto and five other senators on Monday formally submitted a petition for declaratory relief and mandamus, asking the SC to define if a treaty previously concurred in by the Senate should require the concurrence of at least two thirds of its members upon its withdrawal.

The petition was filed after President Rodrigo Duterte in February ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to notify the United States of the Philippines’ intention to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which was signed between Manila and Washington in 1999.

Sotto said the legal move was meant to “assert the sense of the power of the Senate that we know and we think that we have.”

He maintained that senators must be consulted on vital matters like the termination of international agreements and treaties just as its concurrence is required before the same are ratified.

“This role is particularly important to ensure that the power to forge partnerships with our neighbors and allies remains impartial. The Senate must do its part in protecting the checks and balances in our government,” Sotto said.

He also set aside concerns that he could lose his alliance with Malacañang because of the Senate’s action.

“Personal interests should never outweigh public welfare. I will always choose to fight for the independence of the Senate. That is the legacy that I would like to leave this institution when my term comes to an end,” he said.

Duterte, on the other hand, said he could not be compelled by the SC and will stand by his decision to terminate the military pact with the US.

“They cannot compel me. I refuse to be compelled. I have terminated it, tapos ang problema ko,” he said in a press briefing late Monday.

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