A group led by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada on Monday petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) to halt the implementation of the controversial enhanced defense cooperation agreement (Edca) signed recently between the Philippines and the United States.
In a petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for a preliminary prohibitory injunction and/or temporary restraining order, the group urged the High Court to stop the Department of Budget and Management from releasing funds for the implementation of Edca. They said the agreement violates the 1987 Constitution and is “grossly disadvantageous and contrary to the national interest.”
The petitioners asked the SC to permanently prohibit the government from funding and implementing Edca, pointing out that it is a treaty that requires Senate concurrence.
The other petitioners were Francisco “Dodong” Nemenzo Jr., Sr. Mary John Mananzan, Pacifico Agabin, Esteban “Steve” Salonga, Harry Roque Jr., Evalyn Ursua, Edre Olalia, Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, Roland Simbulan and Teodoro Casiño.
The respondents include Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.
“The acts of public respondents, if not immediately restrained or enjoined, will cause grave and irreparable injury to petitioners, as Filipino citizens, and taxpayers, as the implementation or impending implementation of the unconstitutional provisions of Edca shall violate the fundamental law of the Republic of the Philippines,” the petitioners said.
For the same reasons, they added, the commission and continuance of the implementation of Edca during the pendency of their petition will bring injustice to the petitioners and the nation.
Hence, if the implementation of Edca is not immediately enjoined, the petitioners warned that they and millions of Filipinos “will suffer great or irreparable injury before the matter can be heard by the [SC].”
On September 16, 1991, despite pressure from the executive branch and the US government itself, and risking their political careers, 12 senators rejected a proposed Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace that would have extended to another 10 years the Subic Naval Base in Zambales province (at this point, the Clark Air Force Base in Pampanga had already been closed due to the eruption of Mount Pinatubo).
The Senate, led by then Senate President Jovito R. Salonga, voted 12-11 against the proposed treaty, thus ending 470 years of foreign military presence in the Philippines.
According to the petitioners, Edca “is a clear departure from and reversal of the stand taken by the Philippine Senate in 1991.”
“Its terms and conditions put the country in an even worse situation than what would have transpired if the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace that was sent to the Senate for ratification had not been rejected,” they said.
The petitioners claimed that the executive “has circumvented the correct and brave stand taken by the Philippine Senate in 1991 in refusing to renew the bases treaty by illegally entering” into the Edca.
The new agreement “will allow the US government to use Philippine military bases, essentially allowing them to build structures; store as well as preposition weapons, defense supplies and materiel; station troops, civilian personnel and defense contractors; and transit and station vehicles, vessels and aircraft. This will effectively allow them to establish and operate de facto military bases anywhere on Philippine soil, minus the cost of paying for one.”