The Supreme Court upheld the legality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) between the Philippines and the United States.
Voting 10-4, the decision written by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the high court said Edca is an Executive Agreement, not a treaty.
The court ruled that under Section 25, Article 18, the President can enter into an executive on foreign military bases, troops, or facilities if “(a) it is not the instrument that allows the presence of foreign military bases, troops or facilities, or (b) it merely aims to implement an existing law or treaty and holding that the Edca is one such executive agreement.”
Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Arturo Brion, Marvic Leonen, and Estela Perlas Bernabe dissented from the majority while Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza took no part.
“As it is, EDCA is not constitutionally infirm. As an executive agreement, it remains consistent with existing laws and treaties it purports to implement,” the high court said.
The high court in effect disagreed with the position of the Senate that Edca must be submitted to the Senate for ratification.
The Senate by way of Resolution 105 informed the high court that Edca must be be concurred in by at least two-thirds of all members of the Senate.
“No court can tell the President to desist from choosing an executive agreement over a treaty to embody an international agreement, unless the case falls squarely within Article 18 Section 25,” the high court said.
“In the field of external affairs, the President must be given a larger measure of authority and wider discretion, subject only to the least amount of checks and restrictions under the Constitution,” the high court added.
Petitioners against Edca include former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada and militant lawmakers led by Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate.
Last Nov. 10, the high court was expected to rule on Edca but rescheduled the voting to Nov. 16 and then rescheduled it last month. It was eventually moved to Tuesday, Jan. 12.
The Edca, which has an initial term of 10 years, was signed in time for the state visit of US President Barack Obama on April 28 last year as part of his four-nation Asian tour.
Petitioners said the government violated several provisions of the Constitution, including the ban on foreign military bases and facilities without Senate concurrence.
Petitioners also cited the danger that Edca might facilitate the entry of nuclear weapons into the Philippines, which is barred by the Constitution.
Named as respondents are Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad, then AFP Chief General Emmanuel Bautista, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, Ambassador Eduardo Malaya, Ambassador Lourdes Yparraguirre, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, and Defense Assistant Secretary for Strategic Assessments Raymund Jose Quilop.