SC activates site for audio live streaming of oral arguments on PH-US defense pact
MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has launched an online service that will allow the public to follow the upcoming oral arguments on the Philippines-United States Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), a highly anticipated event in light of renewed calls for a renegotiation, if not outright abrogation, of military agreements between the two countries.
The high court on Friday activated within its Website a microsite for the Nov. 18 oral arguments on the Edca, uploading both petitions questioning the constitutionality of the agreement, and the Aquino administration’s consolidated comment on the legal actions.
The microsite (http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/microsite/EDCA/#) features a tab for live audio streaming.
The Edca page also features the Oct. 21 en banc advisory announcing the schedule, including a second hearing date on Nov. 25, “for continuation of oral arguments, if necessary.”
Previously, the high court also launched microsites on oral arguments on the Disbursement Acceleration Program, the Priority Development Assistance Fund, the Reproductive Health Law, and the Cybercrime Act, among others.
Earlier this year, two separate petitions were filed in the high court seeking to declare the Edca unconstitutional on grounds that the pact was in violation of constitutional provisions barring foreign military bases in the country without Senate approval, and banning nuclear weapons.
The agreement, signed in April just before the arrival of US President Barack Obama in Manila, allows greater US military access to the country’s military facilities as part of the US strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific, and the Philippines’ efforts to build external defense capabilities.
Petitioners against Edca include former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada, who were among the 12 Senators who voted to kick US military bases out of the country in 1991, the militant umbrella Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), lawyers, and representatives from the religious and the academe.
“We are ready for the oral arguments. Our lawyers just concluded a meeting today as they prepare for Nov. 18,” said Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr.
“The Edca is unconstitutional. It undermines national sovereignty and national interest. We will prove that during the Supreme Court orals,” he said.
Reyes cited the timeliness of the oral arguments as it would touch on the sensitive issue of US military presence here amid criminal proceedings against US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton.
The Marine is charged with the murder of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, a Filipino transgender woman. Bayan is pushing for Pemberton to be placed in Philippine custody as it presses calls for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
The VFA covers the conduct of visiting US military forces here and allows the US to retain custody of an accused US serviceman until the end of all judicial proceedings. Edca is an implementing agreement of the VFA.
“The Edca would increase the possibility of more Nicoles and Jennifers as US troops will be staying here indefinitely,” said Reyes, also referring to the Subic rape case accuser who eventually recanted her statement against US Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith.
The Office of the Solicitor General declined to issue a statement on its preparation for the oral arguments.
It earlier defended the Edca, saying in its comment on the petitions that it was President Aquino’s constitutional duty to protect the state and that concerns the petitioners raised against the Edca were mere “speculations.”
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