No verdict yet on EDCA

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court on Tuesday, November 10, deferred its verdict on the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippine government and the United States.

The case was calendared for an en banc decision on Tuesday, with Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio calling for a vote, Rappler learned.

But other justices asked for more time to draft their separate opinions. Some even asked to postpone deliberations to January 2016, the same sources added.

The justices eventually agreed on a compromise: to hold their "initial deliberations" on Monday, November 16, according to sources.

The military pact, signed in April last year during the state visit of US President Barack Obama, allows the US military to build its own facilities and preposition its defense assets inside assigned Philippine military bases.

Obama is again coming to Manila next week to attend the APEC summit which Manila is hosting.

Critics brought the pact to the High Court on grounds that it is de facto basing, and thus cannot be a mere executive agreement as it is, but should be a treaty ratified by the Senate. 

The Court did not issue any TRO against EDCA but held oral arguments on it. Philippine defense officials opted to wait for the ruling before allowing the building of the facilities to avoid a situation where they would have to demolish them – in the event of a negative verdict.

EDCA was negotiated against a backdrop of a growingly aggressive China – in the aftermath of the Chinese 2012 occupation of Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal off the coast of Zambales province.

The US has repeatedly said it is not taking sides in the maritime dispute but it supports the Philippine move to settle it amicably through international arbitration.The US has also been helping the Philippines improve its capability to perform maritime security operations.

EDCA was signed by Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg. –