August 30, 2010
MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Francis Pangilinan called on President Aquino yesterday to bring up the issue on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with US President Barack Obama on his first state visit next month.
Pangilinan said the issue should be discussed by the two presidents because it is about the military relations of both countries.
Pangilinan, who is allied with Mr. Aquino’s Liberal Party, recalled that the VFA was approved during the time of Aquino’s predecessor President Gloria Arroyo but it was only affirmed by the Philippine Congress.
“I believe that the US must be involved in discussions on the renegotiation of this agreement,” Pangilinan said.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago is proposing the abrogation of the VFA at the level of the Philippine Congress, but Pangilinan believes that the Philippines should not terminate it on its own.
He also supported calls for the review of the VFA before Mr. Aquino goes to the United States.
Pangilinan noted that during the term of Mrs. Arroyo, she merely agreed with the policy of former US President George W. Bush.
Santiago earlier said that Congress alone can terminate the VFA.
She has filed Joint Resolution 3 expressing the sense of Congress as a whole to terminate the VFA and directing the secretary of foreign affairs to give the notice of termination to the United States.
Santiago, citing a US Court ruling, said that Congress was the correct authority to abrogate the treaty and had properly issued the terminating act, on the grounds that a treaty was the law of the land.
“The Constitution states that the country adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land. I humbly submit that, just like any other law, it is within the powers of Congress to unilaterally terminate the VFA through a joint resolution. The executive’s role is to give notice of termination to the United States, although the decision itself is one for Congress to make,” Santiago said.
The VFA provides for the following manner of termination: “This agreement shall remain in force until the expiration of 180 days from the date on which either party gives the other party notice in writing that it desires to terminate the agreement.”
Santiago, an authority in international law, also said that the US has not recognized the VFA as a treaty, because the US Congress has never given its advice and consent to the VFA.
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