MANILA, Philippines – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago will hold a public hearing on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) on Monday, December 1.
Santiago, chairperson of the Senate committee on foreign relations, said in a statement on Thursday, November 27, that the hearing is to “pass upon whether the Senate should concur with the agreement.”
It will also address whether the EDCA is “necessary, beneficial, and practical,” as well as questions about its constitutionality.
She said that the Constitution is “categorical” on international agreements, and “requires Senate concurrence whether the document is called a treaty or any other international agreement.”
Santiago also reiterated that the EDCA needs Senate approval as it allows the maintenance of military bases in the country.
“Contrary to the claim that the EDCA does not involve the establishment of military bases, the EDCA gives the US rights of possession, control, and use over areas of Philippine territory described as ‘Agreed Locations.’ These rights amount to the maintenance of military bases in the Agreed Locations,” she said.
The senator claimed that EDCA as an “executive agreement” is an “impeachable offense.”
Senate rules support EDCA hearing
Santiago cited Sections 1 and 2 of the Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation as the basis of the Senate hearing on EDCA.
“The rules state that formal inquiries or investigations may extend to any and all matters vested by the Constitution in Congress and/or in the Senate alone and that inquiries may be initiated by the Senate or any of its Committees if the matter is within its competence,” the senator said.
She said that the petition against the constitutionality of EDCA before the Supreme Court does not prevent the Senate from conducting its own public hearing.
“Under the Senate Rules, no proceeding before any government agency can inhibit the Senate from conducting its own proceedings,” Santiago said.
The senator also took exception to a supposed statement made by Acting Solicitor General Florin Hilbay at the oral arguments on EDCA before the Supreme Court.
Santiago said Hilbay had alleged that the decision of senators not to join the petitioners in their case against EDCA might be a sign that they agreed to it.
She explained: “We initially desisted from conducting hearings out of interdepartmental comity with the Supreme Court. We did not signify consent to the EDCA. We merely signified courtesy and respect.”
Among the resources persons invited on Monday are Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Hilbay, former Senator Rene Saguisag, lawyer Harry Roque, and Merlin Magallona, Dean of the UP College of Law.
The Philippines and the United States signed the EDCA on April 28.
The agreement has an initial term of 10 years but is renewable. It paves the way for the increased presence of US troops in the Philippines and gives them wider access to military bases. – Rappler.com
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