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Legarda Reports Accomplishments, Ushers Senate Concurrence in Nine Treaties

March 28, 2012

IN JUST OVER A YEAR AS CHAIR OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS, SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA HAS ALREADY STEERED THE PASSAGE OF FIVE (5) INTERNATIONAL TREATIES AND HAS SPONSORED FOUR (4) MORE AGREEMENTS FOR SENATE CONCURRENCE.
Legarda has pushed for the approval of the following international agreements, namely: (1) the RP-Japan Agreement on Technical Cooperation; (2) the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC); (3) the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT); (4) the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Convention, Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I); and (5) the Agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management to Establish the Office of the WorldFish Center in the Philippines (ICLARM).
The Senator is also optimistic that the Senate will soon concur in the following treaties when session resumes in May: (1) the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) Between the Philippines and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; (2) the MLAT between the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China; (3) the Consular Agreement with the People’s Republic of China; and (4) the Convention on Social Security between the Republic of the Philippines and the Kingdom of Spain.
“The RP-Japan Agreement on Technical Cooperation, concurred in 2011, would bring in a multitude of benefits for the Philippines through training programs, technical expertise, provision of equipment and materials, and the conduct of development studies,” Legarda reported.
Also last year, Senator Legarda rallied her support behind the concurrence of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC can step in when countries are unwilling or unable to dispense justice when it comes to the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, namely – genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression. The ratification of this Statute paved the way for Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s election as ICC Judge for a term of 9 years.
“The ratification of and concurrence to the ICC by the Philippine government strengthens our stand in protecting human rights, including the right to human life and dignity, and will bring a strong message that Filipinos will never tolerate impunity,” the Senator added.
This year, in March, the OPCAT, Protocol I and the Agreement with ICLARM were concurred in by the Senate.
“Torture is a violation of human rights. The Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) strengthens the protection of persons deprived of their liberty against torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment through the institutionalization of a national preventive mechanism that would ensure that the Philippines would meet international standards on confinement and treatment of prisoners. Our accession to this instrument will result in the improvement of our penal facilities, making them conducive for the rehabilitation of our detainees,” the Senator explained.
“On the other hand, Protocol I would provide better protection of Filipino soldiers when they are deployed abroad for peacekeeping and other military operations in the course of an international armed conflict. It ensures the welfare of Filipino soldiers in the event that they are wounded, sick, shipwrecked, captured, missing or killed in a situation of international armed conflict,” Legarda added.
The ratification of the Agreement with the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM) will support Philippine initiatives in fighting hunger and reducing poverty by improving fisheries and aquaculture.
“The presence of ICLARM in the Philippines will contribute to our efforts in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on poverty reduction and hunger elimination. Its projects will improve nutrition and increase incomes of fisherfolk. The organization’s work on environmental conservation, jointly with our institutions, will be key to fighting poverty, food security and overall economic development.”
Meanwhile, the ratification of the mutual legal assistance treaties of the country with UK and China establishes a legal framework which obligates the Contracting Parties to assist in the investigation, prosecution and suppression of criminal offenses and proceedings related to criminal matters.
“Absent an MLAT, assistance by other States is generally limited to service of documents and can be provided only on the basis of reciprocity, and on an ad hoc basis; thus MLATs are important because they make assistance compulsory and obligatory. Given the increasing frequency of transnational crimes, our fight against money laundering and corruption, as well as the transboundary nature of terrorism, an MLAT has become a necessary and vital tool for the Philippines to secure evidence, witnesses and proceeds of crimes which are beyond our physical and legal jurisdiction,” Legarda explained.
“The Consular Agreement with the People’s Republic of China and the Social Security Convention with Spain puts into effect the third pillar of Philippine foreign policy: the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of our Filipino migrant workers. The former extends immediate and appropriate protection to our nationals in China who are being detained, arrested or deprived of freedom, while the latter, which has been pending for ten (10) years now, ensures that our fellow Filipinos in Spain are secured upon retirement in the twilight of their years.”
“I am glad that the Senate was able to concur in most of these international agreements amid the recent political turmoil. There is no time to lose in ensuring that these significant developments in the area of international relations will ultimately redound to the benefits of Filipinos,” Legarda concluded.