• Senate vs. Palace on EDCA?


    The Senate will review the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement despite Malacañang’s insistence that EDCA is a mere executive agreement and, therefore, not subject to concurrence of the chamber. Definitely, this is much more welcome than the “inquiry” into the pork barrel scam by the Senate yellow ribbon committee. This gives the Senate an opportunity to show that it would not follow willy-nilly the wishes of President BS Aquino.

    Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense, has filed Senate Resolution 623 seeking to “clarify the contents and coverage of EDCA and to examine the extent of the strategic military relationship between the United States and the Philippines under it.” This resolution was referred last Tuesday to the committee of Trillanes and to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations headed by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago. The first hearing is set for May 13 at 10 a.m. at the Sen. JP Laurel Room.

    Hopefully, this will be a true inquiry and not a mere briefing on EDCA by officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defense. Resource persons from the two departments are expected to explain why they consider it a mere extension or implementation of the Mutual Defense Treaty and of the Visiting Forces Agreement and not a treaty. Aside from the legalities, DND and DFA officials should also explain EDCA’s impact on Philippine foreign relations, especially that with China.

    The Aquino administration had often taken the Senate for granted, with many senators accepting this treatment without any question. The case of EDCA, which was negotiated without getting any inputs from the Senate, could be the tipping point. Senator Miriam said the Senate was “blind-sided” by its negotiators and that it was not even extended the courtesy of getting an official copy.

    “I feel as if I have been slapped, or ordered to melt into the wallpaper,” she moaned.

    This should spell a tough time for EDCA defenders at the Senate. Sen. Miriam, whose capacity for venom is stronger than her ailment called “chronic fatigue syndrome,” had declared that she would conduct her inquiry separate from that by Trillanes. A joint hearing would make her committee play second fiddle to that of Trillanes, which was designated the primary committee in Resolution 623. (In a joint hearing, it’s the primary committee that drafts the report.)

    She, along with a number of lawyers and commentators, has identified three constitutional issues that EDCA must hurdle. She said that her committee will concentrate on these issues while that of Trillanes could focus on the military aspects.

    What happens if she finds out that EDCA is indeed a treaty and therefore subject to concurrence by two-thirds of the Senate membership? Well, the most she could do is file a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that Malacañang should submit EDCA to the chamber for concurrence. If the Senate rejects the resolution, it might precipitate the resignation of Senator Miriam from the Committee on Foreign Relations. If it is adopted, it has no binding effect on Malacañang which can continue to refuse to transmit it to the chamber. This, however, will result in a face-off between the two bodies, a crisis that only the Supreme Court could resolve.

    A push for PH tourism
    My grandnephew, Lee Montbord, 17, was so impressed by his first visit to the Philippines that he came out with a fast-paced 4-minute video that he titled “Trip to the Philippines: Back to the Roots.” He visited us last February-March along with his sister Luna, 14, their parents Frenchman Joachim Montbord, and Dutch-Filipino mestiza Imee Danao Barten and their grandma, my sister Myrla.

    They visited the Hundred Islands, Banawe, Baler and Caramoan Island, aside from spending quite a time in Barangay Mapangpang, Lupao, Nueva Ecija, where my maternal grandparents were pioneer settlers. Both Lee and Luna, just like their mom Imee, had expressed pride in their Filipino blood and have vowed to return as soon as possible. The final shots in Lee’s video showed it all—a fluttering Philippine flag. (Lee posted his video in Facebook and You Tube.)

    ‘Mr. Bean’ alive and well
    Rowan “Mr. Bean” Atkinson is reportedly set to change his face. A friend said he read this report after Atkinson had learned that a Filipino lawmaker looks like him. “Obviously, Atkinson felt offended that this Pinoy legislator was being likened to him,” my friend added.

    Of course, I didn’t fall for this “report,” not after I had fallen victim to the hoax that Atkinson is already dead. I received emails, including from my daughter Irene and long-time friend Bert de Guzman, that Atkinson is still very much alive, contrary to a post in the Facebook.



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