THERE are acts connected with the controversial Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States that may be grounds for impeaching President Benigno Aquino 3rd, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said on Thursday.
The President signing EDCA, an executive agreement, is an impeachable offense, according to Santiago because the Aquino administration entered into a pact with a foreign government without concurrence of the Philippine Senate.
The senator noted that under the Constitution, authority of the Senate to concur with a treaty is the decisive measure to make EDCA constitutional, if at all, the Senate will express concurrence.
If the Senate does not concur, then the treaty does not become a law, she pointed out.
“The Constitution is categorical. It requires Senate concurrence whether the document is called a treaty or any other international agreement,” the senator said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has been insisting that EDCA is an “executive agreement” that does not require congressional ratification.
It also insisted that EDCA is not a treaty but merely part of implementation of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) that came into effect 50 years ago and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
“It’s an executive agreement? Alright, show me anywhere in the Constitution that speaks of an executive agreement. Where did they get this term? I only know of two terms, treaty and international agreement. That’s what is used in the Constitution,” Santiago said.
The DFA she added, cannot also claim that EDCA as an implementing agreement of the MDT and the VFA because there is no such thing as an implementing treaty, especially in the Philippine Constitution.
“Every treaty has to be on the basis of constitutional requirement, whether implementing or not,” Santiago said.
The senator added that she will call a public hearing on EDCA next week, (Monday) to pass upon whether the Senate should concur with the agreement.
Santiago, head of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said the committee would also try to determine if the agreement is necessary, beneficial and practical for the country.
According to the senator, Sections 1 and 2 of the Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation may be used as the basis of the EDCA hearing.
“Under the Senate Rules, no proceeding before any government agency can inhibit the Senate from conducting its own proceedings,” Santiago said.
She noted that the mere fact that a petition against the constitutionality of the EDCA is pending before the Supreme Court does not prevent the Senate from conducting its own public hearing.
The committee will also tackle the constitutionality of EDCA as she cited the existing constitutional ban on foreign military bases, troops or facilities in the country, except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate.
Santiago said contrary to the claim that EDCA does not involve the establishment of military bases, the agreement gives the US rights of possession, control and use over areas of Philippine territory described as “Agreed Locations.”
“The attitude of the Senate is, as much as possible we shall defer to the Supreme Court. But now if it becomes a question of whether the Senate is interested in discharging its obligations, I have no choice, I have to say `yes we are ready to discharge our functions,” she added.