VOID. Petitioners Steve Salonga, Edre Olalia, Teddy Casino, Romel Bagares and Ethel Arisado file their petition to have the EDCA nullified. Photo by Jose Del/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Likening the US-Philippines relations to an "unequal and exploitative love affair," a group of petitioners asked the Supreme Court (SC) to nullify the newly-signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
In a petition for certiorari and prohibition filed Monday, May 26, lawyers, academicians, activists and former lawmakers asked the SC to declare the EDCA unconstitutional, saying it is "contrary to national interest" and "will result [in] an unlawful use of public funds."
"The unhappy and often disadvantageous results for the Philippines, of this unequal and unseemly relationship, are demonstrated often enough in treaties and agreements on trade and defense it enters into with the US," the petition read.
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Petitioners argued that the EDCA is invalid because it was signed without Senate approval. The petitioners said the EDCA is a treaty and not just an executive agreement, thus it needs Senate concurrence.
"Section 25, article xviii of The 1987 Constitution requires that any foreign military BASES, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate," their petition read.
The EDCA is an agreement between the Philippines and the US which allows American troops more access to Philippine military facilities. The deal, meant to further implement the 1951 PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty, also allows the US to construct facilities and upgrade infrastructures, store and preposition defense and disaster preparedness equipment, supplies, and materiel. (READ: DOCUMENT: Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement)
It contains provisions meant to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), strengthen its external defense, ensure maritime security, increase maritime domain awareness, and expedite humanitarian assistance and disaster response. (READ: PH primer on military pact with US)
The EDCA was signed on April 28 just hours before US President Barack Obama arrived for a two-day state visit to the country.
Prayer for TRO
Alleging that the EDCA is "grossly disadvantageous" and will cause "irreparable injury," petitioners asked the SC for a temporary restraining order to halt the implementation of the agreement, while the SC decides on the case.
The petitioners before the SC include: Former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto E. Tañada, Former University of the Philippines (UP) President Francisco “Dodong” Nemenzo, Jr, former President of St. Scholastica’s College Sr Mary John Mananzan, Former UP College of Law Dean Pacifico Agabin, Lawyers Esteban “Steve” Salonga, Harry Roque Jr, Evalyn G. Ursua, and Edre Olalia, Activists Carol Pagaduan-Araullo and Roland Simbulan, and former Congressman Teddy Casiño.
Saguisag and Tañada were among the 12 senators who voted on September 16, 1991 against a proposed US-RP Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace that would have extended US military presence for another 10 years at the Subic Naval Base. At the time, the 12-11 Senate vote ended 470 years of foreign military presence in the Philippines.
Petitioners also rebutted a standing argument that EDCA can help the Philippines in its battle against Chinese expansionism, saying "there is no provision at all in the agreement expressly obligating the US armed forces to transfer military hardware and technology to the AFP."
Included as respondents in the petition are Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and AFP Chief of Staff Emmanuel T. Bautista.
Mutual Defense Treaty
As the EDCA is said to advance the PH-US MDT, petitioners argued that the MDT is already "superseded by the 1987 Constitution and its express renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy."
The MDT was signed by the Philippines and the US in 1951.
Petitioners said the constitutionality of the MDT "must now be squarely attacked," because its provisions directly contradict the peace-oriented 1987 Charter.
They also argued that the MDT contradicts the country's "obligations as a member of the United Nations, under whose own Charter the use of force as a means to settle disputes between and among states has been outlawed." – Rappler.com
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