Validity of the RP-US Non-Surrender Agreement
Petitioner’s initial challenge against the Agreement relates to form, its threshold posture being that E/N BFO-028-03 cannot be a valid medium for concluding the Agreement.
Petitioners’ contention––perhaps taken unaware of certain well-recognized international doctrines, practices, and jargons––is untenable. One of these is the doctrine of incorporation, as expressed in Section 2, Article II of the Constitution, wherein the Philippines adopts the generally accepted principles of international law and international jurisprudence as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, cooperation, and amity with all nations. An exchange of notes falls “into the category of inter-governmental agreements,” which is an internationally accepted form of international agreement. The United Nations Treaty Collections (Treaty Reference Guide) defines the term as follows:
An “exchange of notes” is a record of a routine agreement, that has many similarities with the private law contract. The agreement consists of the exchange of two documents, each of the parties being in the possession of the one signed by the representative of the other. Under the usual procedure, the accepting State repeats the text of the offering State to record its assent. The signatories of the letters may be government Ministers, diplomats or departmental heads. The technique of exchange of notes is frequently resorted to, either because of its speedy procedure, or, sometimes, to avoid the process of legislative approval.
In another perspective, the terms “exchange of notes” and “executive agreements” have been used interchangeably, exchange of notes being considered a form of executive agreement that becomes binding through executive action. On the other hand, executive agreements concluded by the President “sometimes take the form of exchange of notes and at other times that of more formal documents denominated ‘agreements’ or ‘protocols.’” As former US High Commissioner to the Philippines Francis B. Sayre observed in his work, The Constitutionality of Trade Agreement Acts:
The point where ordinary correspondence between this and other governments ends and agreements – whether denominated executive agreements or exchange of notes or otherwise – begin, may sometimes be difficult of ready ascertainment. x x x
It is fairly clear from the foregoing disquisition that E/N BFO-028-03––be it viewed as the Non-Surrender Agreement itself, or as an integral instrument of acceptance thereof or as consent to be bound––is a recognized mode of concluding a legally binding international written contract among nations.