MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) denied on Tuesday, November 18, the move of the relatives of slain transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude to intervene in the case against a disputed military agreement between the Philippines and the United States.
The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), signed last April, expands the access of US troops to Philippine military facilities. Petitioners led by former senators are questioning before the High Court the constitutionality of the agreement, saying it was a treaty that should have been ratified by the Senate but was instead signed by Malacañang as an executive document.
In its en banc session Tuesday, the SC resolved that Laude’s mother Julita and sisters Marilou and Michelle cannot intervene in the petitions assailing the constitutionality of the EDCA.
An intervenor status is granted to a petitioning party to resolve more effectively a legal dispute.
But the SC said the petition-in-intervention of the 3 female Laudes in the EDCA case contains “sensitive evidence” that might prejudice the murder complaint over Jennifer’s slay, suspected to have been committed by US visiting soldier Joseph Scott Pemberton.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno foresees the murder case to reach the SC, and so prevented its discussion during interpellation.
“We will not discuss that now, because I believe there is a distinct possibility that that case will be before us in the future,” she said.
“We will not discuss that now, because I believe there is a distinct possibility that that case will be before us in the future.”
The SC also resolved to strike out from its records the said petition-in-intervention and all its annexes, as the subject documents discuss “in great detail” matters the city prosecutor’s office in Olongapo would tackle in its preliminary investigation into the murder complaint against Pemberton.
Laude’s death, heavily reported by the media, reignited clamor to end US military presence in the country sanctioned under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). (READ: Jennifer Laude, symbol of ‘oppressed nation,’ laid to rest)
One of these VFA-sanctioned US military drills brought Pemberton in the country.
Some sectors have criticized as mere theatrics the attempt to use Laude’s case to tilt public sentiment against the EDCA.
The EDCA 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 also 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)
Proponents maintain the EDCA helps strengthen the country’s position amid growing tensions with communist China in a controversial maritime row.
The EDCA was signed on April 28 just hours before US President Barack Obama arrived for a two-day state visit to the country.
Petitioners against the EDCA liken the US-Philippines military relations to an “unequal and exploitative love affair.” (READ: Declare EDCA unconstitutional, EDCA asked)
A second set of petitioners also argued that the agreement deprives the country of its “power to tax, an incident of sovereignty,” as “agreed locations are made available to the US rent-free.” (READ: SC told: EDCA deprives state of tax powers) – Rappler.com