Sending EDCA to Senate will embarrass Aquino - SolGen
MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Solicitor General on Monday, December 15, filed before the Supreme Court the government's 42-page memorandum in the cases filed against the new Philippine-US military deal that allows US troops to construct facilities inside Philippine military bases and preposition defense assets in the country.
Various groups had asked the High Court to declare the executive agreement unconstitutional based on two grounds – procedural and substantive. The first refers to the supposed necessity for Senate to concur with the agreement, while the second refers to what is seen as a lopsided deal in favor of the Americans.
The government argued against suggestions made during the oral arguments in November to submit the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) to the Senate for its concurrence. (READ: Transmitting PH-US military pact to Senate discussed at SC)
It argued that only the incumbent senators have the legal standing to protest EDCA before the Supreme Court. In spite of Senator Miriam Santiago’s vocal opposition, it noted that she nor any other incumbent senator joined the anti-EDCA petitioners in their protest before the Supreme Court.
It is also within the powers of the President to enter into an "executive agreement," the memorandum added. It is supposedly different from a "treaty" and "international agreement" that expressly requires Senate concurrence based on the constitution.
The government reiterated that EDCA is a mere implementation of existing treaties, the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
The memorandum also addressed the substantive issues raised against EDCA. It assured the critics that the "Agreed Locations" will not lead to the return of US military bases in the Philippines. On this basis, there is no reason to ratify the agreement, it added.
The memorandum gives both parties the last opportunity to argue their positions before the Supreme Court justices rule on the case. The anti-EDCA petitioners have yet to submit their memorandum.
Embarass the President?
Acting Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said a referral to the Senate will diminish the President's powers and will result in "international embarassment for the President, adversely affecting the country's standing in the international community."
It will also cause "plain and simple delay" because the petitioners are bound to bring EDCA back to the High Court even if the Senate concurs with the agreement, Hilbay added. It will only address the procedural issues, not the substantive issues.
“In choosing to enter into the EDCA, the President has made the decision to formalize pre-existing licenses into a framework agreement that clarifies the rights and obligations of the parties. Such decision is in response to the implementation gaps that the government seeks to address through the EDCA,” said Hilbay.
Aside from maritime security, the memorandum highlighted the value of prepositioned US defense assets to humanitarian assistance and disaster response. It cited US assistance to the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). (READ: SolGen: EDCA no guarantee US will aid PH in sea dispute) – Rappler.com