By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: Philippines Report

President Rodrigo Duterte is a lawyer and he has knowledge on the Philippines’ constitutional law, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the statement in response to Senator Panfilo Lacson who previously told Duterte to read the 1987 Constitution, adding a Member of the Senate “has something to do with international pacts.”

“Hindi lang binasa ng ating Presidente ang ating Saligang Batas, abogado pa po siya. Pumasa po siya ng Bar kung saan isa sa tinanong o subject area para sa examination ay ang constitutional law,” Roque said in an interview.

Duterte, in his weekly national address, said the Senate has nothing to do with the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) issue since it is a sole prerogative of a sitting Commander-in-Chief.

“Senators have no function at all in the matter of agreements dito. It is vested in the president and it does not need any concurrence from Congress, so the power to abrogate the VFA, nandito sa akin,” Duterte said.

While Lacson is right that treaties need Senate’s concurrence, Roque said VFA is not a treaty, citing a decision from the Supreme Court.

“Ang VFA po ay hindi tratado. Ito ay pagpapatupad lamang ng isang tratado at ang tratado na pinapatupad ng VFA ay ang Mutual Defense Treaty,” the Palace official said.

Roque added there are pending cases before the high tribunal whether the abrogation would need the concurrence of the higher chamber, there is no temporary restraining order against it and the President can still abrogate the agreement.

“Ang presidente ay pupuwede pong bumitaw sa VFA kahit kailan po,” Roque said.

In December last year, Duterte warned he would extend the VFA abrogation if the United States could not provide coronavirus vaccines to Philippines.

Duterte then said the U.S. has to pay to keep the military pact due to its “share of responsibility that does not come free.”

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