Battle over legality of Edca starts
MANILA, Philippines–The Supreme Court starts oral arguments Tuesday on the petitions questioning the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) signed last April by the Philippines and the United States.
The Edca challengers, led by former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada and leftist party-list lawmakers belonging to the Makabayan bloc, claimed the agreement violated the Constitution’s provisions on national sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interest.
They particularly focused on the provision on “agreed locations” or areas inside Philippine military bases and camps where the US can build facilities, station troops and materiel, and exercise exclusive control and jurisdiction.
The Office of the Solicitor General, representing the government, said in its consolidated comment that the Edca was an exercise of President Aquino’s prime duty to defend the national security and did not mean the return of US military bases, as alleged by the petitioners.
Named respondents in the suit were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who signed the Edca, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario Jr. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, former Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and other officials.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes said Saguisag would deliver the opening remarks for the petitioners, while lawyers Harry Roque, Evalyn Ursua, Rachel Pastores and Pacifico Agabin, a former University of the Philippines law school dean, will argue the case for the Edca challengers.
“We will set out to prove that the Edca is a new basing agreement whose provisions violate the Philippine Constitution. We will argue that the Edca’s provisions go beyond existing agreements such as the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement. We will also point out that President Aquino, in entering into the Edca, violated the Constitution,” said Reyes, one of the petitioners.
In an advisory issued by the court en banc and signed by Clerk of Court Enriqueta Vidal, the high tribunal set six main issues to be tackled during the oral arguments.
Among these are whether or not Edca is a treaty that needs Senate concurrence; whether Edca deprives the Supreme Court of its judicial authority; and whether there are limits to the constitutionally assigned sphere of discretion of the President concerning foreign relations matters.
Also to be discussed are the legal standing of the petitioners, as well as whether the cases are justiciable.
Meanwhile, the mother and sisters of slain transgender Jennifer Laude also filed a petition-in-intervention in the high court on Monday afternoon, seeking to participate in the case.
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