Senate of the Philippines

Senate concurs with PH ratification of Arms Trade Treaty

Mara Cepeda
Senate concurs with PH ratification of Arms Trade Treaty

PHILIPPINE SENATE. Senate President Vicente Sotto III presides over a Commission on Appointments session on December 14, 2021.

Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB

The treaty requires states to prohibit the shipment of weapons that could be used in human rights violations, including attacks against civilians

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino senators concurred with the Philippines’ ratification of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s tougher and bloodier crackdown on communist rebels, activists, and civilians critical of his abusive policies.

On Wednesday, January 26, a total of 16 senators voted in favor of the third and final reading approval of Proposed Senate Resolution No. 260, which stipulates the chamber’s agreement to President Rodrigo Duterte’s ratification of the UN treaty that aims to control the sale and shipment of conventional weapons globally.

Six senators, however, abstained from the vote, among them two ranking members of the chamber: Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and senators Ronald dela Rosa, Bong Go, Grace Poe, and Francis Tolentino.

The treaty requires states to prohibit shipments of weapons that could be used in human rights violations, including “attacks directed against civilian objects” or other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which the member-state is a party. 

Three of the senators who abstained – Dela Rosa, Go, and Tolentino – are known allies of Duterte, whose deadly rhetoric against his critics have translated into violence against people on the ground. 

As of August 2021, rights group Karapatan had documented 421 incidents of killings since July 2016. There were also least 504 recorded cases of frustrated killings, while 1,138 activists had been arrested and detained over the past five years.

The ATT seeks to regulate the international trade in conventional firearms and to prevent the illegal trade of these weapons, aiming to reduce human suffering and promote peace and security worldwide. 

The ATT considers the following as conventional arms:

  • Battle tanks
  • Armored combat vehicles
  • Large-caliber artillery systems
  • Combat aircraft
  • Attack helicopters
  • Warships
  • Missiles and missile launchers
  • Small arms and light weapons

The Philippines, then under the late president Benigno Aquino III, had been among the 153 member-states that voted in favor of the ATT during the UN General Assembly in April 2013, but the Southeast Asian country became a signatory only in September of that year. Aquino’s successor Duterte later ratified the ATT within his first year in office. 

The 1987 Constitutions requires at least two-thirds of the Senate to concur before any International agreement that the Philippines has signed becomes binding. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.