JUSTICES of the Supreme Court (SC) will vote on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) on Tuesday and observers are expecting close voting because the tribunal is split over the controversial issue.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the ponente, earlier circulated a draft decision saying the military agreement between the Philippines and US is “not unconstitutional.”
A source said part of Sereno’s draft read, “In order to keep the peace in its archipelago in this region of the world, and to sustain itself at the same time against the destructive forces of nature, the Philippines will need friends. Who these are, and what form of friendships will take are for the President to decide. The only restriction is what the Constitution itself expressly prohibits. It appears that this was the overarching concern for balancing constitutional requirements against the dictates of necessity that led to EDCA.”
Several separate draft opinions have been released either dissenting or concurring with Sereno’s ponencia. Voting on the EDCA case was reset several times last year.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio supports Sereno’s position, saying time is of the essence in defending the Philippines from the “bullying” of China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In one of the en banc sessions last month, Carpio was quoted by an SC insider that EDCA is needed to save Philippine islands.
“We should not wait until the other islands will be conquered by China,” Carpio was quoted by The Manila Times source.
Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion and Marvic Leonen, however, do not share the same view.
The three circulated their separate dissenting opinions last year.
Only 14 justices are expected to vote because Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza recused himself, having argued for the government when he was still the Solicitor General.
The source said a 7-7 vote is possible.
If this happens, another voting shall be made and if the result is the same, the petition against EDCA shall be dismissed.