“In declaring Edca constitutional, the Supreme Court kowtowed to strong pressure for more massive, more permanent US presence in the Asia Pacific.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Progressive groups condemned the Supreme Court’s upholding of the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), saying it “allows the return of US military bases by presidential prerogative.”
Activists warned of more violations of Philippine sovereignty and the people’s rights as well as environmental crimes as they anticipate increased entry of US troops and war materiel, and establishment of military facilities in “agreed locations” provided under Edca.
“In declaring Edca constitutional, the Supreme Court kowtowed to strong pressure for more massive, more permanent US presence in the Asia Pacific,” said Rachel Pastores, managing counsel of the Public Interest Law Center and a lawyer for the petitioners led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).
In its Jan. 12 decision, the Supreme Court said Edca is only an implementing agreement of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), and “not an instrument that allows the presence of foreign military bases or facilities.”
As such, the SC said Edca is only an executive agreement and within President Aquino’s power.
“The Edca provides for arrangements to implement existing treaties allowing entry of US military troops under the VFA and the MDT, and thus, maybe in the form of an executive agreement, solely in the power of the President, and not requiring Senate concurrence under Article XVIII, sec. 25,” said the SC.
The SC justices voted 10 in favor, four against and one abstained, and dismissed the petitions by anti-US bases activists and former lawmakers, who said Edca violated the 1987 Philippine Constitution. The Constitution bans foreign military bases in the country, unless under a Senate-appproved treaty.
The high court also disagreed with the Senate, which submitted its position through Resolution 1414, asserting that Edca is a treaty, and thus requires its concurrence through a two-thirds vote.
Edca was signed in April 2014 by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg, in time for US President Barack Obama’s visit to the Philippines.
‘Condemnable legacy of Aquino’
Various groups were both enraged and saddened by the decision, and lambasted the SC justices.
“We accuse the majority of the SC justices of carrying out orders from President Aquino who has exceeded previous presidents when it comes to puppetry to the US,” said Jerome Adonis, secretary general of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).
“This move has once again proved that the SC is just a rubber stamp for the US military’s interventionist policies in our country,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
“We expect more nuclear armed and powered US vessels to enter in our country and roam our territories. Increased presence of US troops will consequently cause more destructive military exercises and maneuvering even within protected and environmentally critical areas, and more incidents of toxic waste dumping similar to what we have already experienced in the past,” Bautista said.
Bautista lamented how the SC had earlier sided with the “US military empire,” citing its 2014 denial of the Writ of Kalikasan to hold the US Navy accountable for destroying reef ecosystems, after its ship USS Guardian trespassed into the heritage site Tubbataha Reef in Palawan. The SC said the US Navy is not liable under VFA or any Philippine Law.
“Edca means the spread of US bases all over the country. It further violates Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity, further endangers Filipino lives and properties, and further imperils the environment. The SC decision on the Edca plunges the Philippines deeper into neocolonial relations with the US,” Adonis said.
Bayan Muna party-list representatives expressed dismay over the decision. Rep. Carlos Zarate said Aquino showed “his shameless puppetry to the US” through Edca, and called it “one condemnable legacy.”
Rep. Neri Colmenares said Edca is “terribly lopsided to the US,” as it provides for rent-free, tax exemptions for US forces and their contractors, for 10 years or more. He also cited that American servicemen got away with their abuses, such as the brutal slaying of transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude in 2014 and the rape of Suzette Nicolas in 2005.
The LGBT group, Bahaghari, called the SC ruling a “traitorous decision,” as it “gave a thumbs up to the rape, abuse and murder of our people at the hands of US soldiers.”
“The bitter justice that the local court gave to Jennifer Laude was entirely cancelled out by today’s traitorous decision. The government has yet again sided with its foreign master, and sold out the interest of the people,” said Bahaghari spokesperson Aaron Bonette.
Bayan-Southern Tagalog spokesperson Iya Franca said the country will be further pulled into the US wars of aggression, with the entry of US troops and prepositioning of its bases and war materiel.
Pastores said the petitioners will immediately file a motion for reconsideration. The groups vowed to continue more protests against US military presence.
“The Filipino people must now resolutely oppose the return of US bases and all the social ills associated with these bases,” said one of Edca’s petitioner, Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. in a statement.