After 6 years, SC set to rule on Jpepa legality
MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court is already set to rule on the 2008 petition questioning the legality of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa).
This after the high court has ordered all parties to submit their respective memoranda within a non-extendible period of 45 days.
Petitioners against Jpepa were led by Akbayan. Other petitioners include Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services Inc. (Ideals), Alliance of Progressive Labor, Ecological Waste Coalition of the Philippines Inc., Mother Earth Foundation, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, NGOs for Fisheries Reform, Kilusan Para sa Pagpapaunlad ng Industriya ng Pangisdaan; Philippine Metal Workers Alliance and then Akbayan Representative Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel.
Named respondents were the 16 Senators who ratified the economic pact on Oct. 8, 2008, former Trade Undersecretary and Jpepa Philippine coordinating committee chair Thomas Aquino, and former Palace officials, including then Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and other members of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s cabinet: Alberto Romulo (foreign affairs), Peter Favila (trade) and Rolando Andaya (budget),
The high court also appointed law experts to be amici curiae (friends of the court) to give their own view on the legality of Jpepa. Named amici curiae are retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Florentino Feliciano, University of the Philippines Professor Merlin M. Magallona and former UP Law Dean and current Philippine Daily Inquirer Raul Pangalangan. The three has 60 days to submit their memorandum.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno took no part in the case.
“Considering the allegations, issues, and arguments adduced in the petitions, comments thereon, and in the replies of the parties this Court resolves to (1) give due course to the petitions; (2) treat the comments as answers; and (3) require the parties to submit their respective memoranda within a non-extendible period of 45 days from notice hereof,” the court en banc resolution stated.
The resolution, however, did not state why the case took six years before it is tackled again.
The agreement promises free trade and facilitates the flow of goods, persons, services and capital between the two countries. It was ratified by the Senate in 2008. It continuously undergoing consultation between the Philippines and Japan.
Petitioners however said that allowing the review to proceed without ruling on whether or not the Jpepa is constitutional would allow the violation of the Philippine Constitution and laws to continue.
They pointed out that no less than the World Trade Organization (WTO) found that Jpepa is one-sided agreement in favor of Japan, among the imbalance noted by the WTO representatives include:
Japan would eliminate 90.9 percent of tariffs over a 15 year period while the Philippines would eliminate 98.6 percent of tariffs over a 10 year implementation period.
Japan’s disproportionate liberalization between its industrial and agricultural sectors when it would eliminate duties on 90.9% of all tariff lines, covering 91.2% of imports from the Philippines under the Agreement. Although 97% of Japan’s non-agricultural tariffs would become duty-free, only 64.8% of its agricultural tariff lines would be duty-free under the Agreement. In comparison, the Philippines would eliminate tariffs on 98.6% of all tariff lines, covering 97.1% of imports from Japan under the Agreement. Of these, 98.5% of non-agricultural lines and 99.2% of agricultural lines would be duty-free under the Agreement.
Petitioners said such an observation showed that Jpepa contradicts a provision of the constitution which states that “the State shall pursue a trade policy that serves the general welfare and utilizes all forms of arrangements of exchange on the basis of equality and reciprocity.
In the resolution released Thursday, the high court laid down what the parties should include in their memoranda in a “clear and concise” manner.
The court said each party should directly answer questions raised against Jpepa, including the following:
-Whether it “encroaches on the power of the legislature”;
-Whether Jpepa “violates Article XII, Section 13 of the Constitution which mandates that the “[s]tate shall pursue a trade policy that serves the general welfare and utilizes all forms and arrangements of exchange on the basis of equality and reciprocity”;
-Whether it “violates exclusions, exemptions or reservations required” under provisions of Article 12 (National Economy and Patrimony) and Article 16 (General Provisions) of the 1987 Constitution, particularly in the areas of natural resources exploration, use and development, the operation of public utilities, and the ownership of land, mass media, and educational institutions, among others, and
-Whether it violates a list of several laws, including those on professional practice, defense contracts, finance, and insurance, as well as the operation of public utility facilities, private security agencies, radio communication networks and recruitment agencies.
The court said it may consider the memorandum on its own in deciding on the petitions.
“No new issues may be raised by a party in the memorandum, and the issues raised in the pleadings but not included in the memorandum shall be deemed waived or abandoned. Being a summation of the parties’ previous pleadings, the Court may consider the memorandum alone in deciding or resolving this petitions,” the court said.
In 2008, the high court voted 10-4 affirming Malacañang’s invocation of executive privilege in refusing to make a full disclosure of the terms of the Jpepa.
The high court said that petitioners failed to prove that there was sufficient public interest to overcome the claim of privilege in compelling government to disclose the respective “offers” of Japan and Philippine governments.
It pointed out that petitioners’ request for the public disclosure of the contents of the Jpepa prior to its finalization has been largely rendered moot and academic after the signing of the agreement by President Arroyo and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on September 9, 2006, and the subsequent endorsement to the Senate for concurrence.
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