Government ready to defend Edca

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

MANILA -- The Aquino administration expressed readiness on Monday to defend the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) with the United States following a petition by two former senators questioning its legality before the Supreme Court (SC).

"We are prepared to defend the constitutionality of the agreement," said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in a regular press briefing in Malacañang.

He recalled that when the government was still negotiating the defense deal with the US, the head of the Philippine panel was Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, who is a lawyer.


"The Solicitor General has also been -- is also onboard with respect to the review of the Edca and certainly he would be representing and defending the provisions of the Edca," he added.

Lacierda explained that Edca's provisions are not against the Constitution, especially on matters relating to basing.

"If you remember the focus of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement is on the access. We are talking about access here," he said.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg signed Edca on April 28 in time for the state visit here of American President Barack Obama.

The US President himself assured that there would be no return of American bases, which were expelled by the Senate in 1991.

Former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada, two of the so-called "Magnificent 12" that expelled the US bases in the country in 1991, filed a petition before the High Court on Monday seeking to nullify the 10-year defense agreement.

They asked the SC to immediately issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or writ of preliminary injunction against Edca.

Petitioners claimed that the provisions of Edca were lopsided in favor of the Americans, leaving the Philippines with nothing more than “empty promises of support” in case of a Chinese invasion of Philippine-occupied islands in the West Philippine Sea.

They also said that Edca is a treaty and requires Senate concurrence contrary to Palace's stance that it is an executive agreement.

"It cannot be emphasized enough that the task of ensuring freedom and liberty lies in the legislature as well, which is why the Constitution provides that certain government acts must have its concurrence. To bypass the Senate for whatever reason is a betrayal of the highest order," the petition read.

The agreement violates the ban on nuclear weapons in the country set in place by the 1987 Charter and deprives the SC of its constitutional prerogatives to review its constitutionality, according to their 65-page petition.

Edca allows the US to build structures, store as well as preposition weapons, defense supplies and materiel, station troops, civilian personnel and defense contractors, transit and station vehicles, vessels, and aircraft.

For the petitioners, these terms grant the Americans “carta blanche power to establish and operate de facto military bases anywhere on Philippine soil, minus the cost of paying for one.” (SDR/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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