Senior justices of the Supreme Court (SC) are set to block the move of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to declare the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States constitutional.
An unimpeachable source of The Manila Times said three senior magistrates have circulated their dissenting opinions to Sereno’s decision dismissing the petitions assailing the legality of EDCA.
If the three justices’ dissenting opinions will gain more votes than the decision written by the chief justice, the defense agreement will be thrown to the Senate where it will be ratified.
The source said two of the magistrates who opposed Sereno’s decision are Senior Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Arturo Brion.
De Castro and Brion are the fourth and fifth mos senior justices in the High Court.
The Times learned that on Monday, Brion circulated a “well-crafted” dissenting opinion objecting to the draft ponencia of Sereno.
De Castro also came out with an eloquent concurring and dissenting opinion. While she agreed with some points raised by Sereno in her draft ponencia, de Castro said the tribunal should grant the petition filed by Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada, Sr. The two former lawmakers, along with several other groups, asked the court to stop the implementation of EDCA because it is unconstitutional.
The SC en banc shall deliberate on the case during a special session on Wednesday unless a magistrate will ask for a postponement to further study the new opinion drafts.
“Brion and De Castro will surely attract more votes and Sereno is on the brink of losing the her case which is to favor Malacañang,” the source told the Times.
Brion, he added, opined that EDCA is “constitutionally deficient” and “unenforceable,” and that the Senate should ratify the agreement for it to be enforced.
The source said SC justices were thankful that The Manila Times came out with a story exposing the draft ponencia of Sereno.
When the 82-page draft decision was circulated by Sereno among the 14 Associate Justices of the high court days before the APEC summit, some of the magistrates said the decision was meant to be President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s gift to US President Barack Obama.
However, the High Court failed to vote on Sereno’s decision because Brion asked for a postponement.
After the Times published Sereno’s ponencia, the Senate immediately passed a resolution stating that EDCA has to be ratified by the chamber because it is a treaty, not just an executive agreement.
In her draft decision, Sereno sided with Malacañang by agreeing that EDCA is not a treaty.
“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,” the draft decision 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,” it added.
But Brion and De Castro disagreed with Sereno, saying EDCA should go to the Senate. They insisted that EDCA is a treaty which needs Senate concurrence.
Also, De Castro twitted Sereno, arguing that while the Philippines needs friends, such friendship must not in any way offend the Philippine Constitution.