The Manila Times has learned that two senior magistrates of the Supreme Court (SC)–Associate Justices Arturo Brion and Teresita Leonardo-de Castro–will issue separate opinions on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States that could outvote a draft ponencia earlier written by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Voting on which ponencia to adopt will be held by the SC en banc during a special session on December 16 or December 17.
In Sereno’s one-page “Dear Colleagues” letter to the 14 justices of the High Court, a copy of which was obtained by The Manila Times, 11 of the magistrates signed Brion’s proposal on the new voting date.
Brion himself, Mariano del Castillo, and Jose Mendoza were unable to sign the proposal, having been on leave during the SC’s last session last November 10.
Originally, the voting on Sereno’s draft ponencia was supposed to be done on November 16, the eve of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit that was held last month in Manila, but Brion was able to defer the voting.
The Chief Justice was of the opinion that EDCA is constitutional.
It was The Manila Times that exposed Sereno rushing the voting on the agreement to present it as a welcome gift to US President Barack Obama and, at the same time, to please President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
In return for the apparent favor to Aquino, the Chief Justice supposedly wanted her chief of staff, lawyer Zaldy Trespeses, to be named as Sandiganbayan Associate Justice.
“Upon the agreement of the court en banc, the voting for the aforementioned case was set on 16 November 2015. Associate Justice Arturo D. Brion is asking for the reconsideration by the en banc by deferring the voting on the case to a special session on either the 16th or 17th of December 2015,” Sereno stated in her letter.
A source of The Manila Times earlier said the Chief Justice’s 82-page draft decision was “very shallow” and the SC justices need a “better version.”
“As it is, EDCA is not constitutionally infirm. As an executive agreement, it remains consistent with existing laws and treaties that it purports to implement,” Sereno’s draft ponencia read.