At 11th hour, senators say EDCA is a treaty needing their vote

6 MONTHS LATER. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago makes good her word to force the Senate to take a stand on EDCA. File photo

6 MONTHS LATER. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago makes good her word to force the Senate to take a stand on EDCA.

File photo

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Miriam Santiago succeeded in getting a majority of the Senate to support her position that the military-to-military agreement between the Philippines and the United States cannot be a mere executive agreeement that requires only the approval of Malacañang. 

At least 13 senators have signed her draft resolution declaring the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) unconstitutional because it should be a treaty that requires Senate ratification. EDCA allows the US military to build facilities and preposition defense assets in the country.

The resolution that is meant to be submitted to the Supreme Court (SC) precedes an expected ruling on the constitutionality of the agreement that, the government said, is needed to help defend the country's territories in the West Philippine Sea. There's talk it will be out in August. (READ: A year later, SC still sitting on EDCA)

Critics called it "de facto" base-seeking to reverse a 1991 Senate vote to evict US military bases in the country. (Watch how the government and its critics defended their positions here or read it here.)

Aside from Santiago, the signatories are Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Pia Cayetano, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Jinggoy Estrada, Teofisto Guingona III, Manuel Lapid, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Sergio Osmeña III, Aquilino Pimentel III, Ralph Recto, Ramon Revilla Jr, and Cynthia Villar.

“Behold the Senate break its silence. The fact that we have not made a hue and cry about the EDCA has apparently been misconstrued as acquiescence. In this resolution, we are saying that we will not allow the power of the Senate to be eroded,” Santiago said.

The resolution comes 6 months since Santiago said she will force the Senate to take a stand on the issue.

The resolution argued that while the 1987 Constitution says it is up to the High Court to decide the constitutionality of "executive agreements," it is a "term wandering alone" because there is no definition for the term, and no requirements and protocol are set.

A treaty, on the other hand, is well defined in the constitution. “The Constitution is clear and categorical that Senate concurrence is absolutely necessary for the validity and effectivity of any treaty, particularly any treaty that promotes foreign military bases, troops, and facilities, such as the EDCA,” the resolution said.

It cannot be an implementation of the existing VFA treaty either, it argued. “It is absurd to claim that the EDCA is an implementing agreement to the VFA, which, in the first place, is alleged to be the implementing agreement to the ancient Mutual Defense Treaty. Moreover, the U.S. does not even recognize the VFA as a treaty,” Santiago said.  

While the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of National Defense (DND) have always argued for its urgency, the High Court took its time. It held oral arguments in November 2014, or 6 months since the petitions were filed.

Meanwhile, China stepped up massive reclamation activities in the South China Sea. (READ: China reclamation may cut PH access to West PH Sea)