Supreme Court (SC) justices have refused to play the government’s card in the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States, which the court was supposed to declare constitutional and then present as a gift to US President Barack Obama during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila that starts this week.
According to an unimpeachable source of The Manila Times in the tribunal, the magistrates have decided to defer voting on the agreement until after the November 17-20 APEC summit.
The source said the SC justices will possibly vote on EDCA on December 16, the last en banc of the High Court for 2015.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno had circulated among the magistrates her 82-page draft ponencia, recommending that EDCA be declared “not constitutionally infirm” and that President Benigno Aquino 3rd, as head of the executive department, must be empowered in matters of foreign affairs and national security.
The SC source said they will not allow themselves to be used by Sereno to please the President by declaring EDCA constitutional in a rush.
The justices have given assurances that they will decide the case on its merits.
The source said some SC magistrates thanked The Manila Times for “leaking” the contents of the draft of Sereno’s ponencia, resulting in the postponement of the voting.
Another source said they are waiting for a separate opinion from an SC justice, possibly Arturo Brion, a Bar topnotcher and reputedly a prolific writer.
Petitions questioning the legality of EDCA were filed by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada Sr., Mary John Mananzan, University of the Philippines professors Pacifico Agabin and Francisco Nemenzo, lawyers Harry Roque Jr. and Evalyn Ursua and advocacy groups Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Gabriela, ACT Teachers, Anakpawis and Kabataan.
Named respondents were Aquino, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.