SEN. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Monday said the controversial Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States is not valid and effective because it was not presented to the Senate for concurrence as mandated by the Philippine Constitution.
Santiago, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, insisted that the wordings of the Constitution are clear that treaties or international agreements can be valid and effective only after the concurrence of the Senate.
“EDCA is not valid and it is not effective because the wordings of our Constitution [are]valid and effective,” she said in a news briefing after the hearing of her committee on the agreement.
Santiago cited Article 7, Section 21 of the Constitution, which states, “No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.”
She said she will be coming up with a resolution expressing the collective wisdom of the Senate on EDCA and have it signed by members of the chamber.
The “silence” of the Senate on EDCA, according to her, should not be interpreted that the chamber is in favor of the cooperation agreement, that is why it is also important for them to express their position on it.
Basically, she said, the sentiment is that the Senate is not happy that its constitutionally accepted powers such as concurrence with and ratification of a treaty have been short-circuited by the executive branch.
“I will draft it [resolution]since I’m the chairman of the foreign relations committee and I will circulate it to the Senate. I think, basically, the sentiment here is that the Senate is not involved in this [EDCA]. I am hoping that the Senate resolution can enlighten the people and will also convey to President [Benigno] Aquino [3rd] the sense of the senators on the EDCA,” Santiago explained.
The senator, however, said she is not sure if she could get the majority of senators to sign the resolution because the President might ask his allies in the Senate to vote in favor of the agreement.
Aquino, as the nominal head of the Liberal Party, which in effect controls the Senate, may prevail upon his colleagues in the party to support EDCA.
“In pragmatic terms, to be realistic, it is entirely possible that he may convince the greater majority to vote his way, the way of EDCA, even if the arguments do not resolve the conflict simply out of party loyalty,” Santiago said.
She noted that the Senate is not obstructing the prerogative of the President on foreign policy and that what they only want is for the executive to respect the chamber’s authority particularly on treaties and international agreements.
The President, Santiago said, should have given EDCA to the Senate rather than hide it and insist that it is an executive agreement that does not need Senate concurrence.
She rejected claims of the executive branch that EDCA is an executive pact that does not need to be submitted to the Senate, saying the term “executive agreement” is nowhere in the Constitution.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, during the committee hearing, conceded that EDCA does not guarantee that the United States would come to the aid of the Philippines in case the country is attacked by other countries.
Gazmin said even with the existence of EDCA, such military aid will have to go through the constitutional process of the US.
Aside from EDCA discouraging other countries from attempting to invade the Philippines, he added that the agreement would benefit the Philippine military in terms of joint training exercises with its US counterpart.
Lawyer Harry Roque dismissed claims that EDCA is part of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreeement (VFA), both also between the Philippines and the US.
He said EDCA goes beyond the VFA since the US, under EDCA, can deploy its troops, preposition its materials anywhere in the Philippines and use the country to store nuclear weapons without the knowledge of Malacañang.