PETITIONERS against the controversial Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) on Monday assailed a reported favorable ruling by the Supreme Court (SC) upholding the constitutionality of the deal, which would allow American troops to use Philippine military bases for their operations.
In separate interviews, former University of the Philippines Law professor Harry Roque and Renato Reyes Jr., secretary-general of the non-government Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), both claimed that the expected ruling will trample upon the country’s sovereignty.
“[This is] sad for the country when highest court does not uphold the spirit and intent of [the]Constitution on [the]presence of foreign troops, bases and facilities,” said Roque, who is running for senator in next year’s elections.
“This is [a]defeat of Philippine sovereignty,” he added.
Roque was reacting to an exclusive report of The Manila Times that the high tribunal is poised to declare the controversial EDCA between Manila and Washington constitutional, based on a leaked 82-page draft decision that was allegedly circulated among the 14 justices.
The draft decision was reportedly penned by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
In the purported draft, Sereno said EDCA is “not constitutionally infirm,” it was learned.
According to the decision, President Aquino, as head of the executive department, has the power to sign agreements on matters of foreign affairs and national security.
An overwhelming majority of the justices are inclined to agree with Sereno since no dissenting opinion had been issued.
Bayan’s Reyes expressed deep concern about the report, noting that the EDCA will be declared constitutional by the SC in time for US President Barack Obama’s arrival for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit next week.
“We remember that EDCA was signed as an executive agreement when Obama first arrived in April last year. Now it seems that Obama will get another welcome gift when he arrives for the APEC meet. If true, the timing of the SC decision smacks of utter puppetry to foreign interests,” he said.
Once deemed constitutional, Reyes noted, EDCA will pave the way “for the return of de facto US bases and make the Philippines a witting tool in the US pivot to Asia.”
“Our sovereignty will again be undermined by the presence of foreign troops. We call on the people to remain vigilant and to protest the EDCA when it is implemented. The SC approval will actually add fuel to the planned APEC protests next week,” he said.
As of Monday, Malacanang had not issued an official reaction to the looming SC action as Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said they still have to wait for the actual promulgation.
“We prefer to await actual promulgation of the decision as any comment at this time would be inappropriate and purely speculative,” he told the Times in a text message.
According to this paper’s report, some of the justices who are not close to Sereno are waiting for a magistrate to issue a separate opinion concurring with the constitutionality of EDCA and that they will favor that opinion so that Sereno will not be given the credit.
A source said Sereno circulated the draft days before the holding of the final phase of meetings of the APEC to please Malacañang and gain brownie points.
The high tribunal is set to discuss and deliberate her ponencia today and that if there will be no objections, the justices may vote on the decision or reset the voting for November 16, the eve of the APEC summit.
Roque and Bayan are among the petitioners against EDCA. The others include former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada Sr., Mary John Mananzan, University of the Philippines Professor Pacifico Agabin, Francisco Nemenzo and Evalyn Ursua.
Named respondents were Aquino, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.