PHNO EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK

MANILA STANDARD by Emil Jurado: COMING TO OUR DEFENSE 

NOV 27 --United States President Barack Obama’s executive order giving respite to some four million illegal immigrants —including some 300,000 Filipinos—reminds me of that classic tale of Dan Galego form Bicol whose dream was to become a TNT (Tago Nang Tago). Well, Dan was able somehow to get a tourist visa good for three years, and when his cousin, an American citizen, came home for Christmas holidays, Dan took the opportunity to go to the US with him. Arriving in Los Angeles, Dan’s cousin told him to go for his breakfast and other meals to a row of restaurants just around the corner because Dan’s cousin was going to work. Dan took a short walk around the corner and went inside a restaurant to take his breakfast. When he ordered ham and eggs, the waitress asked: “Is it sunny side up, or over easy, or boiled?” Dan could not answer. READ FULL COLUMN...

ALSO Editorial: What the blacklist revealed

TO describe the blacklisting of nine Hong Kong journalists who shouted questions at President Aquino at a summit in Indonesia last year as an attack on press freedom might be a bit of an overstatement, but we do not fault the media organizations that portray it as such. Eternal vigilance, after all, is the price of liberty. The blacklist was lifted this week and will most likely be forgotten soon as other, more important issues, jostle for our attention. Still, the kerfuffle highlights the official incompetence and bureaucratic arrogance that are the hallmarks of the Aquino administration. From the start, both qualities were on display as the Bureau of Immigration announced that the nine Hong Kong television and radio journalists were banned from entering the Philippines because they presented a threat to public safety. READ FULL EDITORIAL...

ALSO by Danilo Suarez: The magic of the President’s endorsement 

After former President Cory Aquino finished her term in 1992, she assumed a low-profile role, primarily limiting her public involvement to NGO work. Prior to the 2010 elections, however, she came back into the national scene after being diagnosed with cancer, to which she succumbed some months later. On the day of the funeral, tens of thousands lined the streets to show their sympathy. By the time Cory was buried, national attention had turned to her son, then Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., who was being floated to tandem with Mar Roxas as a possible Vice Presidential running mate in the LP Presidential line up. Up until that time, nobody really took Senator Aquino’s candidacy for the post as particularly significant, as even he himself strongly demonstrated reluctance to the idea. Nine months later, the wave of national sympathy for Cory would catapult PNoy to the presidency. READ FULL COLUMN...

ALSO Editorial: Dry well 

ONCE upon a time, President Aquino extolled the virtues of a new breed of leaders from his own Liberal Party, to whom we could entrust the fate of the nation. The key, he said, was to find young leaders who could continue the program of “reforms” that he had begun. A year or two later, many of those new leaders have been tarnished by allegations of corruption, sheer ineptitude in public office, or both, and the President is casting about to find a viable candidate for 2016. In an interview in Singapore last week, the President said the administration coalition is now in talks with other political leaders, including Vice President Jejomar Binay, as it begins its selection process for its standard bearer in the 2016 presidential election. READ FULL EDITORIAL...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Government is slowing the economy  

It is still one of Asia’s fastest growing economies but the government could have done more to expand the gross domestic product this year. The economy grew just 5.3 percent in the third quarter of 2014 and 5.8 percent in the first nine months, slowed down by typhoon damage and lower public spending. The once red-hot Philippine economy is braking from a much-faster rate, as the government struggles with spending and stumbles over its massive post-typhoon reconstruction program in the wake of super typhoon Yolanda. Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan conceded that agriculture production suffered from strong typhoons that battered the Philippines early this year, while government spending and public construction activities slowed as President Aquino’s government adjusted to “new spending protocols.” READ FULL EDITORIAL...

ALSO by Tony Lopez: Who is who at the BIZnewsASIA party 

NOV 28 --Vice President Jejomar Binay (most probably the next president of the Philippines), two former presidents and a former prime minister along with two of President Aquino’ most trusted cabinet members led upper-crust guests at the 13th anniversary of BizNewsAsia, the Philippines’ largest weekly business and newsmagazine, last Tuesday, Nov. 25, at the Intercon Grand Ballroom. BizNewsAsia is my modestly successful business and news weekly. Published since 2001, it now has a pass-on circulation of 350,000 readers. Former presidents, Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada normally don’t see eye to eye but they gamely shook hands, three times, and shared the presidential table. Observed Babe Romualdez: “The guest list reads a ‘who is who’ with people from politics, business, media and society…” Most notable, said Babe Romualdez in his PhilStar business column yesterday, “was the presence of both FVR and Erap at the same table, with the two ex-presidents in a genial mood.” READ FULL COLUMN...

ALSO by Harry Roque, Jr : The Sol-Gen’s defense of EDCA  

It was Florin Hilbay’s first appearance as acting Solicitor-General last Tuesday when he defended the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement before the Supreme Court. .....On the crux of the controversy, Hilbay argued that EDCA was a mere executive agreement which fixes the details of the earlier signed Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement. He emphasized that the “pivot to Asia” was not a new policy but one that merely reallocates US forces into Asia. He highlighted that the EDCA, as an Executive Agreement, does not authorize the Americans to perform acts, which have not been previously authorized by both the MDT and the VFA. In fact, according to him, unlike the earlier Military Bases Agreement where the US bases were deemed to be the “extension of the territory of the United States, the EDCA does not authorize ‘extra-territorial’ exercise of jurisdiction.” He emphasized that “operational control” of the Americans only applied to the construction of facilities, but Philippine authorities would have full control over all “agreed locations” where the US would be allowed to preposition defense equipment and supplies, as well as deploy troops on a rotational basis. ......As to be expected, the Acting Solicitor-General had his baptism of fire. READ FULL COLUMN.....


READ FULL MEDIA EDITORIALS & OPINIONS  HERE:

Coming to our defense

MANILA, DECEMBER 1, 2014 (MANILA STANDARD) By Emil Jurado - United States President Barack Obama’s executive order giving respite to some four million illegal immigrants —including some 300,000 Filipinos—reminds me of that classic tale of Dan Galego form Bicol whose dream was to become a TNT (Tago Nang Tago).

Well, Dan was able somehow to get a tourist visa good for three years, and when his cousin, an American citizen, came home for Christmas holidays, Dan took the opportunity to go to the US with him.

Arriving in Los Angeles, Dan’s cousin told him to go for his breakfast and other meals to a row of restaurants just around the corner because Dan’s cousin was going to work.

Dan took a short walk around the corner and went inside a restaurant to take his breakfast. When he ordered ham and eggs, the waitress asked: “Is it sunny side up, or over easy, or boiled?” Dan could not answer.

The waitress again asked: “For your bread, is it white, wheat, rye or plain?” Dan who only knew pan de sal, again could not answer.

In any case, his breakfast came with sunny side up eggs and white bread. Dan asked himself, “My gosh, is it this difficult just to have breakfast?”

After his breakfast, the waitress asked: “Are you done?” Dan refused to answer, and asked himself, “Good grief, they even know my name.” When Dan tried to pull out his wallet to pay, the waitress asked: “Do you have a visa?” Dan was aghast, and said to himself that they even wanted me to present my visa.

Quite agitated, Dan rushed out of the restaurant, and bumped into a black man, who told him, “Be cool, man.”

Dan looked for a phone booth and he was now very nervous. He found one, and as he lifted the receiver, a voice said: “AT & T.” This time Dan long of his plans to become a “TNT.”

When his cousin came home, Dan told him, “cousin, I want to go home.” When asked why, Dan said: “Everybody knows my name and my plan of going TNT!”

* * *

Most Filipinos believe that the United States will always come to our defense in case of foreign invasion or territorial disputes, like the one we now have with China.

That’s the reason most Filipinos support the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement despite the fact that the country has scrapped the use of US bases.

It now turns out that under the controversial Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, there is no guarantee that the United States will defend the Philippines form foreign invasion and territorial disputes. And no less than Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said it during the oral arguments last Tuesday at the Supreme Court over the constitutionality of EDCA.

The government is now defending EDCA as a mere executive agreement, not a treaty which would need the affirmation of the Senate.

EDCA as agreed by both the United States and the Philippines is limited to enhancing the country’s facilities that can be used by soldiers from both the US and the Philippines for training.

And as gleaned from the arguments of the Solicitor General, all the country can do is to “hope” that the US changes its mind and comes to our aid should the territorial disputes with China escalate into war.

Recall that the US has repeatedly said that it would not take sides when it comes to dispute in the West Philippine sea. This means that the US does not consider those areas disputed as Philippines territories, as Justice Carpio pointed out.

Santa Banana, in so far as the Mutual Defense Treaty is concerned, while it clearly states that the US will come to aid of the Philippines in case of foreign invasion and war, the question now is: Will the US came to our defense in case the territorial disputes on West Philippine Sea with China escalates into war?

There is doubt that the US will come to our aid in case of a confrontation with China. Washington also has its own national interests to protect insofar as China is concerned.

So what’s the use of these treaties and agreements?

* * *

There is now a debate whether or not the pork barrel system exists in the 2015 national budget as enacted by the House of Representatives and being deliberated by the Senate.

Senator Miriam Santiago in a privilege speech, said that the P37.3 billion allocated to the Departments of Health, Social Welfare and Development, Labor and Employment, Public Works and Highways, and the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) were part of the pork barrel system which the Supreme Court had ruled as illegal and unconstitutional.

When the departments as mentioned can do whatever they want to use the money allocated to them at their own whims and sacrifices, that’s the pork barrel system as we know it. Santa Banana, whom are House Speaker Sonny Belmonte and Budget Secretary Butch Abad kidding anyway?

* * *

As if it were not bad enough for acting Health Secretary Janette Garin and AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang Jr. to violate their own rules on placing UN Peacekeepers on quarantine after their return from Liberia, now the military and the Department of Health are back in the limelight. Four of the peacekeepers were sent to hospital not designated as an Ebola quarantine facility.

According to the military, the decision was based on the guidance of the DoH, which means Garin.


What the blacklist revealed  By Manila Standard Today | Nov. 26, 2014 at 12:01am

TO describe the blacklisting of nine Hong Kong journalists who shouted questions at President Aquino at a summit in Indonesia last year as an attack on press freedom might be a bit of an overstatement, but we do not fault the media organizations that portray it as such. Eternal vigilance, after all, is the price of liberty.

The blacklist was lifted this week and will most likely be forgotten soon as other, more important issues, jostle for our attention.

Still, the kerfuffle highlights the official incompetence and bureaucratic arrogance that are the hallmarks of the Aquino administration.

From the start, both qualities were on display as the Bureau of Immigration announced that the nine Hong Kong television and radio journalists were banned from entering the Philippines because they presented a threat to public safety.

A spokeswoman for the bureau said the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency had recommended the ban in June because the journalists were disrespectful of the President.

“A blacklist order (has been issued) against the identified foreign nationals,” the bureau’s spokeswoman said in a statement.

“One of the grounds, anchored on the interest of public safety, is when a foreign national shows disrespect or makes offensive utterances to symbols of Philippine authority.”

Even on the surface, the notion that nine journalists could constitute a credible threat to public safety—regardless of how rude they are--is simply ludicrous. This makes it all the more remarkable that this ostensible explanation had wended its way through the bureaucratic mill—from the NICA to Immigration—without once being tested against the rare commodity of common sense.

It is inconceivable that it was the President himself who initiated or even approved the ban. Even he would have seen the kind of political fallout that such a move would bring.

The more likely explanation for the blacklist fiasco is that some misguided functionary in the bureaucracy took it upon himself to exact vengeance on these pesky foreign journalists and teach them a lesson in manners. That the request for the blacklist came from the NICA suggests that the official responsible was arrogant enough to believe that he could get away with it, and too stupid to think through the consequences.

But such actions do not exist in a vacuum, and we suggest that whoever was responsible sought the ban because he believed that the President—who is famous for being vengeful and vindictive--would ultimately approve.


The magic of the President’s endorsement By Danilo Suarez | Nov. 27, 2014 at 12:01am

After former President Cory Aquino finished her term in 1992, she assumed a low-profile role, primarily limiting her public involvement to NGO work. Prior to the 2010 elections, however, she came back into the national scene after being diagnosed with cancer, to which she succumbed some months later.

On the day of the funeral, tens of thousands lined the streets to show their sympathy. By the time Cory was buried, national attention had turned to her son, then Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., who was being floated to tandem with Mar Roxas as a possible Vice Presidential running mate in the LP Presidential line up. Up until that time, nobody really took Senator Aquino’s candidacy for the post as particularly significant, as even he himself strongly demonstrated reluctance to the idea.

Nine months later, the wave of national sympathy for Cory would catapult PNoy to the presidency.

Many political analysts agree that without the rekindled Cory Magic, PNoy’s win would not have been possible. UP Prof. Alex Magno assessed that it was clearly a case of “pure brand loyalty”.

Four years down the line and amid the various controversies that have plagued his administration, PNoy suffered the largest decline in his trust and approval ratings as well as his net satisfaction ratings in both the surveys conducted Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations (SWS).

Earlier this week at Tina Monzon Palma’s show, I was asked if there was still, in my opinion, magic in PNoy’s endorsement for 2016.

 My reply was that PNoy still has ample time to recover his lost ratings points but he has to clearly and decisively address the reasons for the decline in his ratings in the first place.

First, the dragon of corruption which the sword of “Tuwid na Daan” was supposed to have slain is very much alive and seems to have even mutated into an uglier beast. For example, my importer friends all tell me that there seems to be no policy now on the flow of papers within the Bureau.

Whereas before there was an expected pattern where clearances are concerned, this is no longer the case nowadays. This lack of system fosters corruption because of the proliferation of “clearances” and “permits” required before cargoes are released.

Corollary to this is the concern that PNoy is protecting his corrupt allies while having a heavy hand on those outside his circle. A selective anti-corruption agenda is no bona fide program and the people can and have seen through this charade.

Second is the unabated drug problem in the country. As I’ve said in my previous column, 65 percent to 75 percent of all inmates across the country have cases that are drug-related.

Clearly the menace of illegal drugs breeds widespread peace and security problems. The drug problem is the primary reason why we are being inundated by petty and violent crimes and yet the authorities remain oblivious to it. The drug problem is also one of the biggest sources of corruption of the PNP.

Our leaders know who the tainted officers are, and again, the common man knows that they know. This gives rise to the perception that our leaders are insensitive to the plight of the common man because they are safely ensconced in their gated communities.

Third, the country’s poverty and hunger levels are growing worse. A hungry electorate would blame incumbent officials and not the opposition for their plight.

As I have said, PNOY still has plenty of time to strengthen his “endorsing power”. If he wants the LP to remain in power beyond 2016, it is time that he let go of his incompetent and corrupt minions and start listening to his real bosses.


Dry well By Manila Standard Today | Nov. 24, 2014 at 12:01am



ONCE upon a time, President Aquino extolled the virtues of a new breed of leaders from his own Liberal Party, to whom we could entrust the fate of the nation. The key, he said, was to find young leaders who could continue the program of “reforms” that he had begun.

A year or two later, many of those new leaders have been tarnished by allegations of corruption, sheer ineptitude in public office, or both, and the President is casting about to find a viable candidate for 2016.

In an interview in Singapore last week, the President said the administration coalition is now in talks with other political leaders, including Vice President Jejomar Binay, as it begins its selection process for its standard bearer in the 2016 presidential election.

Although the President declined to say if an outsider might be considered by the ruling party, the mere acknowledgment that such talks have begun spoke volumes.

What the President did not say was telling as well. Not once during the interview did he mention Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, up until now the presumptive standard bearer of the Liberal Party.

Over the weekend, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and other Liberal Party leaders tried to put a positive spin on the President’s remarks, saying he was confident that the next standard bearer would come from their ranks.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, a Liberal Party spokesman, said the party would respect the President’s endorsement, but added that “it is still best” if the standard bearer came from the administration party.

A Roxas loyalist within the party, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, said he believed Roxas was still the most qualified to continue the President’s program of reforms.

“That will be the debate. Are there candidates from other parties who will be in a better position to continue to reforms of the President?” Abaya said. “I myself would think it would be best handled by a candidate from the LP.”

Abaya himself not too long ago was held up as an example of the kind of young leader that Aquino sought to groom. Another name he mentioned at the time was Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla.

“We are looking through all of these talents,” the President said in a February 2014 interview. “The next step is to give them an opportunity to demonstrate this promise that they hold and in that sense, get them known to the people who will then give them the mandate to continue what we are trying to do.”

Just a few months later, the people now know Abaya as the official who cannot keep the city trains running safely—and who is under investigation over an anomalous contract that might have contributed to this sad state of affairs. Petilla we now recognize as the Cabinet secretary who has been unable to lower electricity rates, which are among the highest in Asia.

Recently released documents also show that members of the Liberal Party were the biggest recipients of allocations from the now discredited Disbursement Acceleration Program, which was the mechanism the Palace used to reward its political allies with billions in public funds.

Against this backdrop, it is no surprise that the President might feel the need to look outside the party for a candidate that can win and can give him political cover after he leaves office. After all, under his leadership, the Liberal Party has become a dry well—bereft of both moral and political capital that can win an election, and more importantly, govern justly after 2016.


Government is slowing the economy By Manila Standard Today | Nov. 28, 2014 at 12:01am

It is still one of Asia’s fastest growing economies but the government could have done more to expand the gross domestic product this year.

The economy grew just 5.3 percent in the third quarter of 2014 and 5.8 percent in the first nine months, slowed down by typhoon damage and lower public spending.

The once red-hot Philippine economy is braking from a much-faster rate, as the government struggles with spending and stumbles over its massive post-typhoon reconstruction program in the wake of super typhoon Yolanda.

Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan conceded that agriculture production suffered from strong typhoons that battered the Philippines early this year, while government spending and public construction activities slowed as President Aquino’s government adjusted to “new spending protocols.”

The government clearly is amiss in its job of pump priming, especially in areas devastated by Yolanda last year.

Millions have lost their livelihood as Yolanda toppled millions of coconut trees and washed away thousands of fishing boats. Farmers and fishermen in Eastern Visayas could have contributed to the GDP and consumer spending, if only the government were quick to restore their livelihood.

The government of President Aquino is also partly to blame for the disappointing economic growth in the third quarter. Work on big-ticket toll roads and light rail systems is at a snail’s pace, with some of the infrastructure projects mired in red tape and stalled by the Transportation Department’s torpor.

The economic growth could slow down further next year if the government fumbles in its plan to mitigate the looming power shortage. The government this early should prepare standby power plants that it could quickly tap to meet the supply gap.

The government, meanwhile, must go back to its role of pump priming. It must speed up work on infrastructure projects, including airports, bridges and storage facilities, to create more jobs and make the economic growth inclusive. The Philippines has already started the growth momentum and this is not the time to be complacent.


Who is who at the BNA party By Tony Lopez | Nov. 28, 2014 at 12:01am

Vice President Jejomar Binay (most probably the next president of the Philippines), two former presidents and a former prime minister along with two of President Aquino’ most trusted cabinet members led upper-crust guests at the 13th anniversary of BizNewsAsia, the Philippines’ largest weekly business and newsmagazine, last Tuesday, Nov. 25, at the Intercon Grand Ballroom.

BizNewsAsia is my modestly successful business and news weekly. Published since 2001, it now has a pass-on circulation of 350,000 readers.

Former presidents, Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada normally don’t see eye to eye but they gamely shook hands, three times, and shared the presidential table. Observed Babe Romualdez: “The guest list reads a ‘who is who’ with people from politics, business, media and society…”

Most notable, said Babe Romualdez in his PhilStar business column yesterday, “was the presence of both FVR and Erap at the same table, with the two ex-presidents in a genial mood.”

Explained Babe: “If ‘frenemies’ is used to describe friendly competitors and ‘honeymies’ for spouses engaged in rival enterprises (like Philip and Sandy Romualdez who now have their respective newspapers), then the new word to describe the relationship between the two former presidents would have to be ‘prenemies’.”

As president and FVR’s successor, Estrada made of litany of the so-called questionable billion-peso deals under the Ramos administration. This angered the general-turned-president who then maneuvered to destabilize Estrada. That came in the People Power II of Jan. 20, 2001 which ousted Estrada and installed Ramos’s partymate, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Among the guests are the country’s most prominent and biggest tycoons and taipans. Present were executives of three of the largest and fastest-growing conglomerates in the country—Ramon S. Ang, president of San Miguel Corp., Teresita Sy, vice chair of SM Investments Corp., Hans Sy president of SMIC subsidiary SM Prime Holdings; Kevin Tan, scion of Andrew Tan, the owner and CEO of Alliance Global Holdings.

Easily $20 billion worth of wealth was in the audience. Three companies alone – SMC, SM Investments Corp., and Alliance Global Group—could boast more than P1 trillion of combined market capitalization, more than P2.1 trillion of corporate assets, and more than P1.2 trillion of revenues.

At the presidential table were VP Binay, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, San Miguel Corp. top honcho Ramon S. Ang, GMA Network Chair and CEO Felipe “Henry” Gozon, the Sys, Rep. Martin Romualdez and Babe Romualdez.

In the second VIP table were former PM Cesar Virata, entrepreneur Injap Sia, president of Double Dragon Properties, industrialist Raul Concepcion and his wife, Menchu, green entrepreneur Beth Lee, her mother Helen; PEZA CEO Lilia de Lima, SGV founder Wash Sycip, Trade Secretary Greg Domingo, Jun Palafox, and Rogelio Manabat, head of the country’s premier accounting firm.

There were also Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr., Singaporean Ambassador VP Hirubalan and his wife Mano, topnotch lawyer Lolong Lazaro, tycoon Joey Leviste, with his wife Jenny and son Jose III; and Kevin Tan.

SMC President and Petron CEO Ang was awarded the coveted CEO of the Year gold trophy. The CEO of the Year award had not been awarded in the past five years.

RSA was cited for radically transforming San Miguel and disrupting in a positive way such businesses as power generation, utilities, petroleum, infrastructure, airports, mining, and for a while, even airlines. SMC expanded its participation in national development beyond its core businesses of beer, foods, and packaging.

Today, San Miguel is the Philippines’ fastest- growing conglomerate, the largest in assets and annual revenues, and one of the most profitable.

San Miguel assets ballooned 3.45 times from P339.37 billion in 2008 to P1,170 billion (P1.17 trillion) in 2013, sales rose 4.32 times from P183.4 billion to P792.45 billion, equity expanded 2.2 times from P168 billion to P365.77 billion, and annual profits increased 2.6 times from P19.34 billion a year in 2008 to P50.72 billion last year. If reckoned from end-2007, profits actually expanded 5.8 times, from P8.63 billion to P50.7 billion in six years.

Under RSA, SMC revenues were doubling every 24 months while assets were doubling every 2.5 years.

At Petron, RSA completed a $2-billion modernization giving the complex immense flexibility in handling any kind of crude for processing, producing petrochemicals, and generating byproduct electricity. In Malaysia, Petron raised its profile with RSA’s acquisition of Exxon Mobil and rebranding it as Petron.

Cited for Entrepreneurial Excellence were: Tessie Sy, Henry Gozon, Injap Sia, Andrew Tan, Nedy Tantoco, Ronnie Concepcion,and the three owners of fast-rising property developer 8990 Holdings JJ Atencio, president; Marin Martinez, chairman; and Luis Yu, its biggest shareholder.

Honored for Management Excellence were: SM Prime President Hans Sy, Bangko Sentral Governor Say Tetangco (for financial inclusion), OceanaGold Ph Chair Joey Leviste, and Metrobank Chair Arthur Ty.

Given trophy for Public Service Excellence were: PEZA Director General Lilia de Lima, Rep. Martin Romualdez, Mayor Erap, and former President Ramos (for international understanding).

Lolong Lazaro was cited for Excellence in Law, Beth Lee for Green Entrepreneurship, and SMC CFO Ferdinand Constantino and PLDT subsidiaries CFO Chaye Revilla. GMA’s Mike Enriquez was honored for Broadcast Excellence.

In his inspirational speech, FVR cited two factors for BNA’s success: experience and competence. He noted my having been with Hong Kong weekly Asiaweek and a business editor. I was editor in high school and college, I have a journalism degree, magna cum laude, MBA studies at Ateneo, and a global journalism certificate from the University of Stockholm.

The three-hour event ended with my children (Ciara and Noreen; two others are abroad) and grandchildren (Anika and Rafa; three others are abroad) belting out happy birthday (I turned 66 that night), as the guests gamely chimed in.


The Sol-Gen’s defense of EDCA  By Atty. Harry Roque Jr. | Nov. 28, 2014 at 12:01am

It was Florin Hilbay’s first appearance as acting Solicitor-General last Tuesday when he defended the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement before the Supreme Court. Unlike petitioners who divided the issues identified by the Court amongst five speakers, Sol-Gen Hilbay defended EDCA alone. As a former Associate of Retired Justice Vicente Mendoza, it was expected that Hllbay would highlight what he probably thought were the insurmountable hurdles to justiciability.

On top of his argument was that none of the petitioners is an incumbent member of the Senate who is complaining that their discharge of their official functions, such as giving concurrence to treaties, was violated.

Outside of technical objections, Hilbay argued that the President’s decision to enter into the EDCA was an inherent discharge of his executive powers as chief architect of foreign relations. He also said that the President entered into the EDCA as part of the Chief Executive’s power to ensure the security of the public, especially against the threat of modern-day terrorism.

On the crux of the controversy, Hilbay argued that EDCA was a mere executive agreement which fixes the details of the earlier signed Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement. He emphasized that the “pivot to Asia” was not a new policy but one that merely reallocates US forces into Asia.

He highlighted that the EDCA, as an Executive Agreement, does not authorize the Americans to perform acts, which have not been previously authorized by both the MDT and the VFA. In fact, according to him, unlike the earlier Military Bases Agreement where the US bases were deemed to be the “extension of the territory of the United States, the EDCA does not authorize ‘extra-territorial’ exercise of jurisdiction.”

According to him, under EDCA, the military bases shall continue to be part of Philippine territory and that the Americans cannot engage in any form of activity without the consent and approval of Philippine authorities. He emphasized that “operational control” of the Americans only applied to the construction of facilities, but Philippine authorities would have full control over all “agreed locations” where the US would be allowed to preposition defense equipment and supplies, as well as deploy troops on a rotational basis.

As to be expected, the Acting Solicitor-General had his baptism of fire.

Justice Marvic Leonen was unrelenting in his queries. He started by discussing Article 7 of Article XIII of the Constitution and asked the same questions he asked of me: whether there ought to be a difference between a treaty and an international agreement, both of which require the concurrence of the Senate.

Then he inquired on the prohibitory nature of Section 15 of Article XVIII and elicited Hilbay’s agreement to my position that the same is lex specialis. Where he differed is his assertion that Section 15 applies only to permanent bases and not to the presence of troops and facilities. The latter, he argued, were already within the coverage of the VFA.

Justice Leonen grilled Hilbay on the fact that in the case of Medellin vs. Texas, apparently, the EDCA does not have the force and effect of law under the laws of the United States. Under the case cited by Leonen, treaties can only have the effect and force of law in the US if the treaty itself is self-executory and if a statute implements it.

In this regard, Hilbay insisted that the VFA has been declared constitutional at least three times in three separate petitions filed substantially by the same parties. He also said that Leonen’s reading of Medellin was the mere dissenting view of J. Antonio Carpio.

Leonen then compared the language of the EDCA and the rejected Military Bases Agreement of 1991. He noted that contrary to the position of the Sol-Gen, it appears that even under the rejected treaty, the Philippines also had the right to approve all activities of the Americans.

This, in my mind, was a very strong point against the position taken by Hilbay as a comparison of the text of EDCA and the MBA would indeed show that Philippines has always maintained its right to approve all activities of the Americans in our territory.

Justice Carpio took the same stance as he did when I argued last week. He was able to get a concession from Hilbay that while the US has always had a treaty obligation to come to our assistance in case any of our islands are attacked, it refused to come to our assistance when both the Scarborough and Mischief Reef were forcibly taken from us by China.

He agreed with J. Carpio that in reality, the EDCA ad the MDT are not guarantees that the US will come to our assistance should our islands in the West Philippines Sea be attacked by China, simply because the US has always taken the stand that they “do not take sides in the on-going island disputes” in the West Philippines Sea.

Justice Teresita De Castro, for her part reiterated that Senate concurrence is necessary if we are to exercise jurisdiction over US military personnel. She noted the country’s generosity when we agreed that the US can use our facilities free of rent.

The parties were then given 20 days from Tuesday within which to file their respective memorandum. After which, the Court is expected to rule on whether the petitioners were successful in proving “grave abuse of discretion” when the President entered into the EDCA.

It’s not fun to be a columnist and an advocate. You’re dying to take sides and should not. Darn!


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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