It’s final, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) is constitutional.
This, after the Supreme Court, voting 9-4 denied the motions for reconsideration filed by former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada, and the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) joined by other party-list groups. Saguisag and Tañada were among the 12 senators who voted to eject US bases in the Philippines in 1991.
The high court said petitioners failed to raise new arguments that would warrant a reversal of their Jan. 12 decision.
“To this, the Court stated that petitioners do not present new arguments to buttress their claims of error on the part of this Court. They have rehashed their prior arguments and made them responsive to the structure of the Decision in [the Saguisag motion for reconsideration], yet the points being made are the same,” SC’s Information Chief Atty. Theodore Te said at a press conference Tuesday.
The high court, last Jan. 12, voting 10-4-1, ruled that Edca is an executive agreement which the President is allowed to enter into under Article XVIII Section 25 of the 1987 Constitution.
Saguisag and Tañada, in their motion for reconsideration, said they had difficulty accepting the ruling despite the plain meaning of the constitution “this Honorable Court ruled the way it did.”
“Something that may seal the fate of [my] apos [grandchildren], eldest seven, who loves to play soldier, should not be decided by the President and Defense Secretary alone. Pamahalaan ng nakararami, hindi po ng dalawa lang (This is a government of many, not only of two),” he said.
Like Saguisag and Tañada, Bayan, in its 82-page motion said the people, through the Senate, should be represented in the discussion of foreign military presence in the country.
Petitioners added that contrary to the high court’s position that what was prohibited under the law was the initial entry of foreign troops, the Constitution is clear when it stated that “foreign military bases shall not be allowed in the Philippines.”
But the high court, in dismissing the motion for reconsideration said Edca did not go beyond the framework of the constitution. The entry of US troops has long been allowed under a valid and subsisting treating–the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).
“The Constitution cannot be viewed solely as a list of prohibitions and limitations on governmental power, but rather as an instrument providing the process of structuring government in order that it may effectively serve the people. It is not simply a set of rules, but an entire legal framework for Philippine society,” the high court said.
The SC added that petitioner’s argument that Edca is a treaty “fell flat before the stronger legal position that Edca merely implemented the VFA and MDT.”
It added that an exchange of notes cannot be considered an amendment to the Military Bases Agreement (MBA).
“Diplomatic exchange of notes are…formal communication tools on routine agreements akin to private law contracts, for the executive branch. This cannot truly amend or change the terms of the treaty,” the SC resolution stated.
The motions for reconsideration, according to the SC are littered with facts on US practices, ineffective provisions which cannot they cannot tackle.
“Petitioners [are] essentially asking the Court to replace the prerogative of the political branches and rescind the Edca because it is not a good deal for the Philippines.”
“Unfortunately, the Court’s only concern is the legality of Edca and not its wisdom or folly; their remedy clearly belongs to the executive or legislative branches of government,” the SC said. CDG