Some senators abstained from treaty resolution vote to ‘avoid offending' Duterte: Sotto

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 03 2020 03:43 PM

MANILA - Some senators opted to abstain from voting on a resolution asking the Supreme Court to determine the Senate's role in treaty abrogations to "avoid offending" President Rodrigo Duterte, the chamber's top leader said Tuesday.

Seven lawmakers earlier opted not to say whether they are for or against the resolution instead of simply thumbing down the measure that clarifies the Senate's right in the cancelation of accords.

The resolution came after the unilateral termination of the Philippines' Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States on President Rodrigo Duterte's orders, which several senators had criticized.

"As a matter of fact, 2 [senators] came to me. I will not name them anymore at baka mapag-initan pa (they might take heat). Sabi sa akin, nakikisama lang daw sila (they said it was out of deference)," Sotto told reporters. 

"They thought they might offend the President by saying yes," he said.

Some of those who abstained "know the resolution is correct," the Senate President said.

"They did not want to offend the president... That is the reason why they abstained because if you feel that a resolution is wrong, then you vote against," he said.

The lawmakers who abstained from the vote are known administration allies senators Ronald Dela Rosa, Christopher "Bong" Go, Imee Marcos, Aquilino Pimentel III, Ramon Revilla Jr., Francis Tolentino and Cynthia Villar.

Dela Rosa is Duterte's long-time top cop in his hometown Davao City and was appointed national police chief and corrections chief before election to the Senate. 

The cancellation of his US visa triggered Duterte's order to abrogate the VFA. 

Go was Duterte's aide who continues to release updates about the President, Marcos a known ally, Tolentino the President's former adviser, while Villar's son is Duterte's public works secretary.

In a separate statement, Sen. Panfilo Lacson slammed lawmakers who have "blind loyalty."

"While loyalty is a virtue, blind loyalty is simply just that - blind," Lacson said, without specific reference to any colleague. 

"When we cast our vote on any matter under deliberation, we should be dictated only by our own conscience and what we honestly think is good for our country, and the institution where we belong - and not because of blind loyalty to any person or party," he said.

"Otherwise, we can no longer be the Senate of the people that we are supposed to be, but an expensive "rubber stamp" that our taxpayers have to sustain out of their hard-earned tax money," he said.

Pimentel and Marcos earlier said they abstained from voting due to "lack of information" on the resolution that is expected to be filed before the high court later this week.

"Parang hindi masyadong maliwanag sa amin paano gagawin 'yun (It's not very clear to us how it would be done). As a result, the more prudent thing is to abstain," Marcos said.

Dela Rosa and Tolentino said there is no need to ask magistrates to determine the Senate's role in the cancelation of treaties as the constitution is "very clear" about it.

Go said he abstained from voting because "there are pending cases before the Supreme Court" on similar matters.

Villar and Revilla did not explain their abstentions.