A group of taxpayers, lawmakers, teachers, and militants has filed another petition questioning the legality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) before the Supreme Court (SC).
In a petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction, the group argued that the government officials who signed the EDCA with the US government “committed grave abuse of discretion when they entered into the EDCA as it constitutes a derogation of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The respondents in the petition were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. and Armed Forces of the Philippines. Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.
The Philippine negotiating panel composed of Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino (chairperson); members Ambassador Lourdes Yparraguirre, Ambassador Eduardo Malaya, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan 3rd and Defense Assistant Secretary for Strategic Assessments Raymund Jose Quilop was also impleaded in the petition.
Those who signed the petition were Bagong Alyansang Makabayan represented by its secretary general Renato Reyes, Jr.; Bayan Muna Party-list Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate; Gabriela Women’s Party-list Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emi De Jesus; ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio; Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Fernando Hicap; Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon; Makabayang Koalisyon Ng Mamamayan represented by Saturnino Ocampo and Liza Maza Bienvenido Lumbera, Joel Lamangan, Renato Constantino, Salvador France, Rafael Mariano, Rogelio Soluta and Clemente Bautista.
The petition asserted that in entering into EDCA, the respondents’ waiver of sovereignty was so gross that it constituted a derogation of the country’s dignity and an unconscionable sellout of the Philippine sovereignty.
“The respondents yielded to the US forces the operational control of Agreed Locations for construction activities. The respondents also capitulated all of the Philippines’ rights and authorities to the US government within the Agreed Locations for their operational control and defense. These acts of the respondents deprive the Philippines of its right to exercise its police power over these so-called Agreed Locations,” the petition read.
“The respondents, through the EDCA, and with grave abuse of discretion, permitted that the prepositioned defense equipment, supplies and materiel in the Agreed Locations is for the exclusive use of the US forces, granting them full control over their access to, use, and disposition of the same, as well as the unencumbered right to remove them at anytime from the territory of the Philippines.”
The petitioners said the Philippines has no power to inspect the US’ prepositioned materiel and cannot object to the entry of nuclear, biological or chemical weaponry.
The petition claimed that the respondents deprived the High Court through the EDCA of judicial power over the acts of US forces and contractors committed within Philippine jurisdiction resulting in any civil, criminal or administrative liability.
“EDCA relinquishes Philippine sovereignty in exempting US forces, contractors and “others” from the jurisdiction of our country’s judicial system. A reminder of the harrowing Philippine experience with the so-called Subic rape case under the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement), which may recur under the EDCA,” they said.
The group said the EDCA deprived the Philippines of its power of taxation.
Furthermore, the agreement clearly involved the entry of foreign troops and facilities into Philippine territory and authorizes US forces and contractors, vehicles, vessels, and aircraft operated by or for United States forces to have access to and conduct activities in Agreed Locations, they said.
The petition further argued that the EDCA was a basing agreement that is not allowed under the 1987 Constitution, except under stringent conditions.
“After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning military bases, foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State (Article XVII, Sec. 25).”
Citing Article XVIII, Section 25 of the law, it argued that the effectivity of an agreement allowing the entry of foreign troops, bases and facilities without a treaty “is subject to the (i) role of the Senate to concur in the ratification; and (ii) the role of both Houses of Congress to decide whether or not to call for a national referendum to approve the same.”
Thus, the group asked the SC to declare the EDCA as unconstitutional and invalid, to permanently enjoin its implementation, and to issue a TRO ordering respondents to cease and desist from implementing it.