SC told: EDCA deprives state of tax powers

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SC told: EDCA deprives state of tax powers
For the second time in two days, the Supreme Court is asked to declare as unconstitutional PH's new military deal with the US
NULLIFY EDCA. Leftist lawmakers and activists files before the Supreme Court the second petition to have the EDCA nullified. File photo by Rappler.

MANILA, Philippines – For the second time in two days, the Supreme Court (SC) was asked to void the PH-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Leftists lawmakers, former lawmakers, artists and activists filed on Tuesday, May 27, a 101-page petition for certiorari and prohibition asking the SC to declare the EDCA unconstitutional. The petitioners also asked for a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the deal, while the court decides on the case.

Their petition came a day after former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto E. Tañada filed a similar petition before the High Court. Saguisag and Tañada were among the 12 senators who voted on September 16, 1991 against a proposed US-RP Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace that would have extended US military presence for another 10 years at the Subic Naval Base. At the time, the 12-11 Senate vote ended 470 years of foreign military presence in the Philippines.

The EDCA is an agreement between the Philippines and the US which allows American troops more access to Philippine military facilities. (READ: DOCUMENT: Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement)

It 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)

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 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: EDCA allows US military to build anywhere in PH)

Petitioners believe the EDCA treats US forces and contractors as “more privileged” than Filipino citizens and corporations, “as the former will pay less and will not be charged with taxes and fees in the use of water, electricity and other public utilities.”

“In fact, the taxes for the use of Philippine facilities will be paid under the account of the Philippine government. It would be the Philippine government subsidizing the taxes of the US forces and their private contractors, including the multi-billion dollar companies that are part of the US military industrial complex. No other private company in the Philippines enjoys this privilege at the moment,” the petition read.

Citing Article VI, Section 28 (4) of the Philippine Constitution, petitioners argued that the tax-free agreement outlined in EDCA needs Congress approval. The cited portion of the Charter reads: “No law granting any tax exemption shall be passed without the concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress.” 

Entry of nuclear weapons

Petitioners also said the EDCA is against the Philippines’ renunciation of war in the Constitution. The EDCA allows the US to construct facilities and upgrade infrastructures, store and preposition defense and disaster preparedness equipment, supplies, and materiel.

“The Philippines has no power to inspect the US’ prepositioned materiel and cannot object to the entry of nuclear, biological or chemical weaponry,” petitioners claimed.

In their petition, they argued that the deal violates the constitutional provision against the presence of nuclear weapons in Philippine territory.

Senate concurrence

While the government claims the deal is meant to further implement the 1951 PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), petitioners argued that EDCA gives new privileges and rights to US forces that are not contained under the MDT.

The claim that EDCA is merely an implementation of MDT exempts the deal from the constitutional requirement of having to secure a concurrence from the Senate. Petitioners believe the EDCA is a treaty on its own – an argument also put forth by Saguisag and Tañada.

Petitioners and public respondents

The petitioners include the umbrella group Bayan represented by its secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr, Bayan Muna representatives Neri J. Colmenares and Carlos Zarate, Gabriela Women’s Party representatives Luzviminda Ilagan and Emi de Jesus, ACT Teachers representative Antonio Tinio, Anakpawis representative Frenando Hicap, Kabataan representative Terry Ridon, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, film and television director Joel Lamangan, anti-bases activist Renato Constantino, Jr, the Makabayan Coalition represented by Satur Ocampo  and Liza Maza, Roger Soluta, KMU secretary general, Salvador France of Pamalakaya, Clemente Bautista of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment and Rafael Mariano, chair of the KMP.

Named respondents in the petition are Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario, Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, and the entire Philippine negotiating panel that came up with the EDCA. – 

(Read the full petition below)

Final Bayan Petition Edca SC


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