PH-US DEAL QUESTIONED; SC ASKED TO DECLARE EDCA UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Two former senators asked yesterday the Supreme Court (SC) to declare unconstitutional the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the governments of the Philippines and the United States. Former senators Rene A.V. Saguisag and Wigberto E. Tañada also sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the SC to prevent the government from enforcing EDCA and from releasing public funds for its implementation. Saguisag and Tañada are among the so-called “Magnificent 12” senators, led by then senator Jovito R. Salonga, who voted for the removal of the US military bases in the Philippines in 1991. In a petition, Saguisag and Tañada told the SC that “not only is the EDCA a violation of the Philippine Constitution, it also does not provide any substantial, long-term real benefit, much less distinct advantage or improvement in our position vis-à-vis the United States.” They pointed out that EDCA, signed last April 28, is a treaty which should have been transmitted to the Senate for its concurrence under Section 25, Article XVIII of the Constitution. Section 25, Article XVIII requires that any foreign military bases, troops, or facilities “shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate,” they said as they stressed that EDCA is not merely an executive agreement. READ MORE....

ALSO: Altho Aquino alarmed by China's aggressiveness, PH won’t make provocations in disputed territory

The Philippines is not about to do a China in the disputed reefs and atolls in the South China Sea. Although President Aquino is “alarmed” by the aggressive maritime stance of China in the South China Sea, he stressed that the Philippines would not resort to provocative actions in the disputed territory, similar to China’s reclamation works on the Mabini Reef. The President said the Philippines would not risk being accused of violating the informal code of conduct among Southeast Asian nations and China in the region. Under the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) forged in 2002, Aquino said the signatories, including the Philippines, have been called “not to inhabit presently uninhabitable islands” to prevent an escalation of the conflict. “So pag nagtayo tayo ng facilities doon to inhabit previously uninhabitable (islands) pati tayo ay guilty of violating the agreement that we all agreed to [So if we build facilities to inhabit previously uninhabitable islands, we are also guilty of violating the agreement that we all agreed to],” the President said in a media interview after attending the 116th anniversary of the Philippine Navy at the Naval Station Carlito Cunanan in Palawan. READ MORE...

ALSO: $40M for Philippine maritime capability a 'US priority'

The US Department of State has requested the approval of $40 million or P1.75 billion from the US Congress to boost the Philippines' maritime security and capabilities next year. Daniel Russel, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, delivered a testimony before the House panel in Washington last week on President Barack Obama's 2015 budget request for Asia Pacific. After giving an overview on progress of Obama's "rebalance" strategy to the region, Russel requested an additional $14.5 million for the Philippines under the state department's Foreign Military Financing program. "This assistance will expand our support for the Philippines' efforts to improve its maritime security and maritime domain awareness, which is a US priority," Russel said. Video: Assistant Secretary Daniel Russel testifies the Obama's administration's FY2015 budget for East Asian and Pacific affairs. Once approved, the US' budget for the Philippine military modernization will see a 57-percent increase from only $25.5 million in 2013. In recent years, Manila has invested in additional military assets especially to boost its presence in the waters fiercely contested by neighboring China. In a bid to develop credible armed forces especially in the maritime domain, the Department of National Defense last year acquired two US Coast Guard Hamilton ships, three new navy helicopters and 100 army tanks among others. READ MORE...

ALSO: 2nd PETITION VS EDCA FILED BEFORE SUPREME COURT

Militant group Bayan, partylist legislators, and leaders of various sectoral organizations, on Tuesday filed a second petition questioning the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the US and the Philippine governments before the Supreme Court. The filing of the petition for certiorari and prohibition coincided with the 15th anniversary of the ratification of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The petitioners are asking the High Court to declare the EDCA as unconstitutional and invalid and to permanently enjoin its implementation and to stop any further negotiations on agreed locations. They are also seeking the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) ordering respondents to cease and desist from implementing EDCA. "Fifteen years ago, we went to the Supreme Court to question the VFA based on the fear that it would lead to the return of US bases and permanent troop presence. We have been proven right as we now have the EDCA which would allow the return of US bases under a different name...It is time for the SC to strike down this most heinous affront to our national sovereignty, dignity and national interest," Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Bishop urges gov't to bare EDCA details

An official of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday called on the Aquino administration to be transparent and make public the details of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US government. CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs chairman Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the administration of President Benigno Aquino III should bare the contents of the controversial military agreement. Bishop Pabillo also fears that the EDCA would usher in the return of the US military bases in the country. "Alam ba natin yung buong pinirmahan nila? Kasi ang problema natin pinirmahan nila pero hindi natin alam kung ano ang laman nun. Dapat alam natin yan dahil walang Freedom of Information o FOI. Kaya nga...hindi natin alam na mga Filipino kung ano ang napagkasunduan doon," Bishop Pabillo said. The prelate said that he supports the petition of former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada, asking the Supreme Court to declare null and void the EDCA. Under the EDCA, US will be allowed to deploy more military troops to the country.THIA IS THE FULL REPORT.


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PH-US deal questioned; SC asked to declare EDCA unconstitutional


CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUE — (From right) Lawyers Steve Salonga, Edre Olalia, and former Bayan Muna Partylist congressman Teddy Casiño file before the Supreme Court Monday a petition questioning the validity of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the governments of the Philippines and the United States. (Jacqueline Hernandez)

MANILA, JUNE 2, 2014 (MANILA BULLETIN) by Rey G. Panaligan— Two former senators asked yesterday the Supreme Court (SC) to declare unconstitutional the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the governments of the Philippines and the United States.

Former senators Rene A.V. Saguisag and Wigberto E. Tañada also sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the SC to prevent the government from enforcing EDCA and from releasing public funds for its implementation.

Saguisag and Tañada are among the so-called “Magnificent 12” senators, led by then senator Jovito R. Salonga, who voted for the removal of the US military bases in the Philippines in 1991.

In a petition, Saguisag and Tañada told the SC that “not only is the EDCA a violation of the Philippine Constitution, it also does not provide any substantial, long-term real benefit, much less distinct advantage or improvement in our position vis-à-vis the United States.”

They pointed out that EDCA, signed last April 28, is a treaty which should have been transmitted to the Senate for its concurrence under Section 25, Article XVIII of the Constitution.

Section 25, Article XVIII requires that any foreign military bases, troops, or facilities “shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate,” they said as they stressed that EDCA is not merely an executive agreement.

Palace ready to defend EDCA

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, however, said EDCA was crafted within the parameters of the Constitution. He said that while EDCA grants US access to local military bases, it prevents the establishment of any US bases in the country.

So we believe that the government can ably support and defend the position before the Supreme Court, he added.

Those who joined Saguisag and Tañada were former University of the Philippines president Dr. Francisco Nemenzo Jr.; Dean Pacifico A. Agabin; Sr. Mary John Mananzan; Atty. Steve Salonga, son of former Senate president Jovito R. Salonga; lawyers Harry Roque, Evalyn Ursua, and Edre Olalia; Dr. Carol Pagaduan Araullo; Dr. Roland Simbulan; and former Rep. Teddy Casiño.

Named respondents were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista.

Saguisag and Tañada told the SC that “EDCA 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, transit and station vehicles, vessels, and aircraft.”

Thus, they said, “the agreement will effectively allow the US government to establish and operate de facto military bases anywhere on Philippine soil, minus the cost of paying for one,” they added.

Grave abuse of discretion

With the signing of the EDCA, the petitioners said the Department of National Defense committed grave abuse of discretion under the guise of promoting the mutual defense treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the US.

They said that the MDT had been superseded by the 1987 Constitution which rejects war as a national policy.

The agreement also contradicts the Philippines’ obligations as a member of the United Nations which has outlawed the use of force as a means to settle disputes between states.

“The constitutional prohibition is absolute in its prohibition against nuclear weapons in its territory. As such, no vessel or aircraft of the US, which enters Philippine territory, should be allowed to carry nuclear weapons. Yet, the language of EDCA only prohibits nuclear weapons if they are prepositioned. There is no prohibition present in all the other activities that EDCA allows where US troops, supplies and materiel enter Philippine territory,” they said.

Lacierda, however, said the government has a strong legal team who can defend the constitutionality of EDCA before the Supreme Court. Part of the government team is Defense Undersecretary Pio Batino, head of the Philippine panel that negotiated EDCA, who is also a lawyer, according to Lacierda.

No assurance

The petitioners added that even with the signing of EDCA, there is no assurance that the US will go to war with the Philippines in case the latter’s territorial dispute with China would result in violence.

They said that any military aid will not be automatic as the MDT provides that constitutional processes must first be complied with such as the approval of US Congress for its government.

“Although it was signed in the context of heightened tension with China and dangled as proof of America’s ironclad commitment to defend the Philippines against Chinese expansionism, there is no assurance that the United States will actually come to the aid of the Philippines in case of an invasion by China,” they said.

They pointed out that US President Barack Obama, during his recent visit to the country, failed to categorically state that his government would come to the aid of the Philippines in case of an armed attack by China.

The SC is on its decision-writing month this May. It is expected that the petition would be tackled in its first regular full court session on Tuesday next week. (With a report from Genalyn D. Kabiling)

Aquino alarmed, but PH won’t make provocations in disputed territory by Genalyn D. Kabiling and Ellalyn B. De Vera May 28, 2014 MANILA BULLETIN

Puerto Princesa, Palawan – The Philippines is not about to do a China in the disputed reefs and atolls in the South China Sea.

Although President Aquino is “alarmed” by the aggressive maritime stance of China in the South China Sea, he stressed that the Philippines would not resort to provocative actions in the disputed territory, similar to China’s reclamation works on the Mabini Reef.

The President said the Philippines would not risk being accused of violating the informal code of conduct among Southeast Asian nations and China in the region.

Under the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) forged in 2002, Aquino said the signatories, including the Philippines, have been called “not to inhabit presently uninhabitable islands” to prevent an escalation of the conflict.

“So pag nagtayo tayo ng facilities doon to inhabit previously uninhabitable (islands) pati tayo ay guilty of violating the agreement that we all agreed to [So if we build facilities to inhabit previously uninhabitable islands, we are also guilty of violating the agreement that we all agreed to],” the President said in a media interview after attending the 116th anniversary of the Philippine Navy at the Naval Station Carlito Cunanan in Palawan.

The President then read anew the fifth provision of the DOC, which states “the parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited island, reef, shoals, case and other features and to handle their differences into a constructive manner.”

DOC VIOLATION

He maintained that China’s establishment of facilities in the disputed territory, including reclamation works in the Mabini Reef, have violated “both the spirit and the letter of the DOC.”

“We brought this up and we will be bringing it up again before ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and probably also in ITLOS (International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea),” he added.

On China’s reported sinking of one of Vietnam’s fishing vessel, the President said he was still waiting for a confirmation of the report.

Nonetheless, the President expressed concern over China’s aggressive push into the disputed territory and pushed for a peaceful and rules-based approach to resolve the conflict.

He noted that when Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung was in Manila recently, the visiting leader mentioned that Chinese ships guarding an oil rig within Vietnam’s waters increased to “120 or 130” from 80.

“Naaalarma tayo dito at sumama tayo sa panawagan na meron nga tayong usapan, nandun na nga sa DOC, iyong sa pag-increase ng tension [We are alarmed by this and we have joined calls that we have an existing DOC to avoid the increase in tension],” he said.

He wondered aloud why the developments in the South China Sea have been happening despite an agreement to conform to peaceful negations and the international law.

Amid the renewed tension in the South China Sea, Aquino said the military, coast guard, and other concerned agencies are reviewing the situation to craft the “possible scenarios and our appropriate response.”

Aquino, however, refused to disclose the country’s contingency plans amid a lingering territorial row with China.

NAVY READY

In related developments, the Philippine Navy chief said the threats to the country’s territorial integrity are “real and present” but the country’s naval forces stand ready to deal with these concerns.

Navy flag officer-in-command, Vice Admiral Jesus Millan, declared the navy station in Palawan, near the West Philippine Sea, will be at the “forefront” of the country’s territorial defense operations.

“We recognize the enormity of the challenges that confronts the Navy… The menace of various threats to national security and territorial integrity are real and present. The geopolitical landscape changes with the latest developments and volatile situation in the region,” Millan said during the 116th anniversary rites at the Navy Station Carlito Cunanan.

“But the Navy commits and remains steadfast to surmount the odds and meet the expectations of our people. We will perform while we continue to transform,” he added.

Without directly mentioning the country’s territorial conflict with China, Millan said the strategic direction for the Navy today is to shift to its “territorial defense role.”

“The naval base Hulugan will be the forefront of our maritime security operations in support of western command,” he added.

“A lot were asking why we picked Ulugan Bay as the location for our celebration instead of Manila or Cavite. My answer is: why not? It is important that we focus our attention to our detachments such as NavForWest (Naval Forces West) which is primarily tasked in guarding the West Philippine Sea,” said Millan.

He added: “The more important question here is ‘why did NavForWest transfer to Ulugan Bay?’, The primary reason behind this is to increase the operational quality of the unit. Apart from its beauty, the location is strategically inclined as Ulugan Bay is facing the West Philippine Sea.

“It will be faster and cheaper to conduct patrols as well as the transportation of supplies to our men who are safeguarding the islands within our territory.”

FROM PHILSTAR

$40M for Philippine maritime capability a 'US priority' By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated May 30, 2014 - 10:05am 18 1018 googleplus0 1


US state department's Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel R. Russel is seen in this March 2014 photo with US Pacific Command commander Admiral Samuel J. Locklear at the sixth US-India East Asia Consultations. US State Dept.

MANILA, Philippines — The US Department of State has requested the approval of $40 million or P1.75 billion from the US Congress to boost the Philippines' maritime security and capabilities next year.

Daniel Russel, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, delivered a testimony before the House panel in Washington last week on President Barack Obama's 2015 budget request for Asia Pacific.

After giving an overview on progress of Obama's "rebalance" strategy to the region, Russel requested an additional $14.5 million for the Philippines under the state department's Foreign Military Financing program.

"This assistance will expand our support for the Philippines' efforts to improve its maritime security and maritime domain awareness, which is a US priority," Russel said.

Assistant Secretary Daniel Russel testifies the Obama's administration's FY2015 budget for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Once approved, the US' budget for the Philippine military modernization will see a 57-percent increase from only $25.5 million in 2013.

In recent years, Manila has invested in additional military assets especially to boost its presence in the waters fiercely contested by neighboring China.

In a bid to develop credible armed forces especially in the maritime domain, the Department of National Defense last year acquired two US Coast Guard Hamilton ships, three new navy helicopters and 100 army tanks among others.

Russel put forward Obama's "commitment" to stand by the Philippines in recovering from the deadly super typhoon Yolanda with an additional $20 million.

"These targeted investments in our development and security assistance built on our full cadre of programming in the region to support our crucial policy goals," Russel said, referring to the major shift in America's foreign policy to East Asia and the Pacific.

Russel said Obama is seeking more than $156 million to boost the maritime capacity of its Southeast Asian partners in the next two years.

He also sought continued resources to counter transnational organized crime and terrorist threats south of Sulu Sea between southern Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The US has five defense treaty allies in the region, namely the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Australia.

The Philippines and Japan are embroiled in maritime and territorial disputes with China, which the US is also seeking "greater cooperation" with.

"We also are investing in developing our relationship with China, where we seek to expand tangible and practical cooperation on a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues, while also constructively managing our differences," he said.

The US has been criticized for deepening its ties with its Asian partners to boost its presence in the western Pacific, allegedly to contain China. Washington, however, has denied that the efforts are to contain the Asian giant's rise.

2nd petition vs EDCA filed before SC (PHILSTAR)  By Dennis Carcamo



MANILA
Militant group Bayan, partylist legislators, and leaders of various sectoral organizations, on Tuesday filed a second petition questioning the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the US and the Philippine governments before the Supreme Court.

The filing of the petition for certiorari and prohibition coincided with the 15th anniversary of the ratification of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

The petitioners are asking the High Court to declare the EDCA as unconstitutional and invalid and to permanently enjoin its implementation and to stop any further negotiations on agreed locations.

They are also seeking the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) ordering respondents to cease and desist from implementing EDCA.

"Fifteen years ago, we went to the Supreme Court to question the VFA based on the fear that it would lead to the return of US bases and permanent troop presence. We have been proven right as we now have the EDCA which would allow the return of US bases under a different name...It is time for the SC to strike down this most heinous affront to our national sovereignty, dignity and national interest," Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

Aside from Bayan, the petitioners include Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate, Gabriela Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emi de Jesus, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, film and television director Joel Lamangan, and anti-bases activist Renato Constantino Jr.

Named respondents are Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario, Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, and the entire Philippine negotiating panel that came up with the EDCA.

Petitioners are represented by the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and the National Union of People’s Lawyers.

"The text and subtext of the arguments in this petition are openly directed at the subservience of the Philippine Government to the blatant and outright prevarications and lies that US interests have peddled for more than a century now. The arguments at their core consist of the reality of trampled sovereignty and subordinated, nay, subjugated, Philippine public interests," they said.

Petitioners argued that in entering into EDCA, the respondents’ waiver of sovereignty "is so gross that it constitutes a derogation of our country’s dignity and an unconscionable sellout of our sovereignty."

They added that the EDCA is in contravention of national interest, citing the deal was primarily motivated by the US strategic rebalancing towards Asia and is therefore in the service of US security and economic interests.

The petitioners said that the EDCA was replete with provisions that are contrary to national interest and disadvantageous to the Filipino people, including the rent-free provision for agreed locations, tax exemptions for US forces and their contractors, as well as the unlimited term of the EDCA which will go beyond 10 years.

They said that the EDCA is in fact a basing agreement that was not ratified by the Senate, hence is in violation of the Constitution.

The petitioners believe that the agreed locations under EDCA fit the description of a forward base, citing the definition of the The Encyclopedia of United States National Security.

On Monday, two former senators -- Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada-- spearheaded the filing of petition before the High Court, contesting the legality of EDCA.

The two ex-legislators were among the 12 senators who had voted against the continuous stay in the country of the US bases in 1991.

Bishop urges gov't to bare EDCA details By Dennis Carcamo (philstar.com) | Updated May 26, 2014 - 4:09pm 1 3 googleplus0 0


PNoy

MANILA, Philippines - An official of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday called on the Aquino administration to be transparent and make public the details of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US government.

CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs chairman Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the administration of President Benigno Aquino III should bare the contents of the controversial military agreement.

Bishop Pabillo also fears that the EDCA would usher in the return of the US military bases in the country.

"Alam ba natin yung buong pinirmahan nila? Kasi ang problema natin pinirmahan nila pero hindi natin alam kung ano ang laman nun. Dapat alam natin yan dahil walang Freedom of Information o FOI. Kaya nga...hindi natin alam na mga Filipino kung ano ang napagkasunduan doon," Bishop Pabillo said.

The prelate said that he supports the petition of former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada, asking the Supreme Court to declare null and void the EDCA.

Under the EDCA, US will be allowed to deploy more military troops to the country.


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