AQUINO REACTS TO VIRAL OPEN LETTER ON 'PORK' DETENTION CELL

JUNE 25 --President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday reacted to an open letter criticizing the perceived special treatment to the senators detained in connection with the pork barrel scam. The letter, which has been making the rounds online, compared the detention cells of Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada with that of the President's father, the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. during Martial Law. John Silva, the writer of the viral letter, noted that the "huge comfy" detention cells of Revilla and Estrada were 10 times bigger than the one given to the President's martyred father. "Your dad didn't go to jail for stealing. He was into more heady stuff like a return to democracy, human rights and moral convictions. So why the hell are you treating these senators with kid gloves, these guys who can't seem to recall, account, or sign off on billions of missing pesos?" Silva said in his letter. In response, Aquino said it is difficult to compare the detention cells of his father and of the two senators. "Baka mahirap i-kontra, 'yung i-compare, dahil talagang ang tinarget [noong Martial Law ay si Ninoy]," Aquino told the media during his working visit in Japan yesterday, which was shown on television reports. But he added that "to be fair," his father's detention cell in Fort Bonifacio had air conditioning "at some point." The late senator, Aquino also said, was allowed to come out of his room for one hour every day. The President echoed, however, Silva's description of his father's difficulties during his nearly eight-year detention. "[F]or somebody who is a very sociable being like my dad, 'yung solitary confinement was really, shall we say, a mental torture," the President said. Silva wants the President to visit his father's detention cell and then do some "serious and immediate changes" to the "cushy jail arrangements" for Revilla and Estrada. READ MORE...

ALSO: Nobel for PNoy bucked  

Groups protest, cite torture, killings under Aquino term. THE Palace and its allies have been lobbying to have President Benigno Aquino III nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, despite recent concerns raised by the European Union and the United Nations about torture, summary executions and human rights abuses under his administration, militant groups said Sunday. Human rights and militant groups immediately objected to the nomination, saying the President was “highly unqualified” and that the mere suggestion was “laughable,” given that there were other world leaders more deserving of the award. They also vowed to torpedo the President’s nomination. “Aquino is highly unqualified for such an award. The Nobel Peace Prize would hit a new low with the nomination of Aquino. Human rights violations under Aquino’s four-year-old regime include the militarization of peasant communities, 192 cases of extrajudicial killing, 21 cases of enforced disappearances and numerous illegal arrests, along with 400 political prisoners,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes. Reyes said they received “credible information” last week that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process headed by Secretary Teresita Deles was lobbying in Norway to get President Aquino nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize so the President could play up an “accomplishment” during his fifth State-of-the-Nation Address. Reyes said Deles aggressively pitched the “historic Bangsamoro peace deal.” * READ MORE...

Palace has no plans to 'eliminate' Mayor Estrada

JUNE 25  --Malacañang insisted on Wednesday that it has no involvement in the disqualification case filed against former President and now Manila City Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada. "We would like to assure Mayor Estrada, and with all due respect to whatever was mentioned to him or confided to him by his allies, we have no plan to eliminate Mayor Estrada," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said at a televised press briefing. Lacierda said they do not know the basis of the allegations that Malacañang had a hand in the petitions filed in the Supreme Court seeking the disqualification of Estrada as Manila mayor. He noted that the petitions filed by former mayor Alfredo Lim and his lawyer Alicia Risos-Vidal are still pending in the high court, which is a separate and independent government institution. READ MORE...

ALSO: PNoy inaugurates P4-B infra projects in Iloilo

JUNE 28  --President Benigno Aquino III on Friday led the inauguration of several infrastructure projects in Iloilo worth P4 billion. Aquino first led the inauguration of four bridges along the Iloilo Circumferential Road (C-1) Jaro Bridge II in Iloilo City. The project is worth P2.1 billion. He then inspected the P700-million Iloilo Convention Center in the Iloilo Business Park, Brgy. Old Airport, Mandurriao District. The President then went on to inaugurate the two-kilometer section of the proposed P500-million Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. Avenue Road Widening Project in Brgy. San Rafael in the same district. "Ang mga proyektong ito ang magpapabilis at magpapadali sa biyahe hindi lamang ng mga Ilonggo at Ilongga, kundi pati na rin ng mga turistang bumibisita at mga negosyanteng namumuhunan sa Iloilo," Aquino said in his speech. "Buo ang kumpiyansa ko na ang mga pagbabagong ito ay maghahatid ng makabuluhang pagkakataon, at magbibigay ng higit na kakayahang magpanday ng maunlad na bukas hindi lang sa mga mamamayan ng Iloilo, kundi pati sa iba pang probinsya sa Panay," he added. *READ MORE..

ALSO: Palace backs DoJ evaluation process on Abad, Alcala

JUNE 28  --Malacañang yesterday said it has confidence in the Department of Justice’s process of vetting two Cabinet officials implicated in the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) anomaly. In response to questions about Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala’s vetting by the DoJ, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, in a radio interview, said: “The investigation process, evaluation process of the DoJ under the leadership of Secretary Leila de Lima is ‘colorblind,’ so we support the process.” Both Abad and Alcala, both political allies of President Aquino, were named on the list submitted by alleged pork paying for the space and facilities. “This is a free country. If you feel there is an issue you want to raise before the court, in this case the EDCA, any citizen can file petition questioning the legality,” Lacierda said.
“We believe that it (the EDCA) is constitutional so we are prepared to defend the outcome before the Supreme Court,” he added. Lacierda added that there have already been previous petitions against the EDCA and for the third time around, the government was still willing to defend it. Last June 3, the Supreme Court (SC) did not issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the implementation of EDCA.Instead, the High Court ordered the respondents in the case to submit their respective comment on the petition questioning the constitutionality of the EDCA within 10 days from notice. The respondents are Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

ALSO: Ochoa, Gazmin, et al. ordered to comment on anti-EDCA petitions 

The Supreme Court has asked Malacañang to comment on the two petitions
seeking to strike down
the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States, according to SC Public Information Office chief and spokesman Theodore Te. Apart from Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., also required to comment within 10 days were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario, Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, and the entire Philippine panel that negotiated for the EDCA. The respondents were ordered to comment not only on the two petitions, but also on the petitioners' plea for the issuance of a temporary restraining order against the bilateral deal. "The court, without necessarily giving due course to the petitions, required respondents to comment within 10 days from notice," Te said. Te also said the two petitions have been consolidated. The deal was contested before the SC through two petitions filed by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada, and by another group composed of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, party-list lawmakers from the "Makabayan" bloc, and former solons, among others. Saguisag and Tañada claimed EDCA's terms and provisions are “lopsided in favor of the Americans.” The second batch of petitioners, meanwhile, said the EDCA goes against the Philippines' national interest, is disadvantageous to Filipinos, and is mainly motivated by the US strategic re-balancing towards Asia and is therefore in the service of US security and economic interests. Under EDCA, the US will be allowed 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 for a period of 10 years. The petitioners said the EDCA would grant the US “carta blanche power to establish and operate de facto military bases anywhere on Philippine soil, minus the cost of paying for one.” They also said the agreement would be a mere implementation of policies enshrined in the PHL-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) — a treaty whose constitutionality is being challenged for the first time before the high court with Saguisag and Tañada's petition. President Benigno Aquino III has already expressed confidence that the EDCA, signed in April in time for US President Barack Obama's visit to Manila, can stand legal scrutiny even if it is challenged before the Supreme Court.THIS IS THE FULL REPORT FROM GMA NWES NETWORK.


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Aquino reacts to viral open letter on 'pork' detention cells


The detention unit for each senator at the Camp Crame Custodial Center has a single-sized bed, kitchen sink, ceiling fan and a private bathroom with a handheld shower. Inset: The detention cell of the late Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. with a life-sized figure of the democracy icon. BOY SANTOS/WILLY PEREZ

MANILA, JUNE 30, 2014 (PHILSTAR) President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday reacted to an open letter criticizing the perceived special treatment to the senators detained in connection with the pork barrel scam.

The letter, which has been making the rounds online, compared the detention cells of Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada with that of the President's father, the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. during Martial Law.

John Silva, the writer of the viral letter, noted that the "huge comfy" detention cells of Revilla and Estrada were 10 times bigger than the one given to the President's martyred father.

"Your dad didn't go to jail for stealing. He was into more heady stuff like a return to democracy, human rights and moral convictions. So why the hell are you treating these senators with kid gloves, these guys who can't seem to recall, account, or sign off on billions of missing pesos?" Silva said in his letter.

In response, Aquino said it is difficult to compare the detention cells of his father and of the two senators.

"Baka mahirap i-kontra, 'yung i-compare, dahil talagang ang tinarget [noong Martial Law ay si Ninoy]," Aquino told the media during his working visit in Japan yesterday, which was shown on television reports.

But he added that "to be fair," his father's detention cell in Fort Bonifacio had air conditioning "at some point." The late senator, Aquino also said, was allowed to come out of his room for one hour every day.

The President echoed, however, Silva's description of his father's difficulties during his nearly eight-year detention.

"[F]or somebody who is a very sociable being like my dad, 'yung solitary confinement was really, shall we say, a mental torture," the President said.

Silva wants the President to visit his father's detention cell and then do some "serious and immediate changes" to the "cushy jail arrangements" for Revilla and Estrada.

"Like your dad’s, give them cells that make them sweat and agonize and realize their thieving days were a blight on our people... Stop indulging the accused we are now thoroughly repulsed with or else you diminish what your father, Senator Ninoy Aquino, stood and was killed for," said Silva, civic leader and executive director of the Ortigas Foundation Library.

On Tuesday, Malacañang also reacted to Silva's open letter and admitted that the country needs judicial reforms.

"We acknowledge that we continue to deal with a criminal justice system that needs to be overhauled and reformed in order to be truly fair and equitable," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

Coloma assured that the Palace will pursue judicial reforms while hoping that the Sandiganbayan will conduct a fair and speedy trial of the pork barrel scam cases.

Estrada, Revilla and Senate minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile are facing plunder and graft charges for supposedly amassing kickbacks by coursing their pork barrel funds to dubious foundations of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles with the help of government agencies and officials.

The Sandiganbayan has ordered the arrest of Estrada and Revilla, who have both surrendered and are now detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame. - Louis Bacani

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Nobel for PNoy bucked By Christine F. Herrera, Joyce P. Pañares | Jun. 30, 2014 at 12:01am

Groups protest, cite torture, killings under Aquino term

THE Palace and its allies have been lobbying to have President Benigno Aquino III nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, despite recent concerns raised by the European Union and the United Nations about torture, summary executions and human rights abuses under his administration, militant groups said Sunday.

Human rights and militant groups immediately objected to the nomination, saying the President was “highly unqualified” and that the mere suggestion was “laughable,” given that there were other world leaders more deserving of the award. They also vowed to torpedo the President’s nomination.

“Aquino is highly unqualified for such an award. The Nobel Peace Prize would hit a new low with the nomination of Aquino. Human rights violations under Aquino’s four-year-old regime include the militarization of peasant communities, 192 cases of extrajudicial killing, 21 cases of enforced disappearances and numerous illegal arrests, along with 400 political prisoners,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes.

Reyes said they received “credible information” last week that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process headed by Secretary Teresita Deles was lobbying in Norway to get President Aquino nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize so the President could play up an “accomplishment” during his fifth State-of-the-Nation Address.

Reyes said Deles aggressively pitched the “historic Bangsamoro peace deal.”

* Deles denied lobbying for the nomination, but a Palace spokesman admitted that “some groups” might be seeking it.

A press release from her office also showed that Deles had talked up the government’s peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front at a conference in Oslo last week, where she attributed “the historic accord” to “the proactive leadership and commitment” of President Aquino.

But Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate said they opposed the nomination, saying the situation in the Philippines was “far from peaceful” because of the policies implemented by the President.

“We have received reports that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has actively lobbied for President Aquino to get the award and may have convinced foreign organizations to nominate President Aquino,” said Colmenares, also House senior deputy minority leader.

Reyes said while in Norway purportedly to attend a peace conference, Deles had lobbied to have a Norwegian parliamentary Green Party nominate President Aquino.

Reyes said they would provide the Green Party with pertinent documents to appraise it of the real situation in the Philippines under Aquino.

In a phone interview, Deles said no representative from the Green Party was present at the Oslo conference that she attended.

“I don’t know where that group (Bayan) got its information, but obviously they have it all wrong,” she said.

“I didn’t even know you could lobby for a Nobel Peace Prize,” she added.

In the Palace, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said it was possible that some groups wanted to nominate the President for the Peace Prize for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, but denied the government was behind the effort.

“During the Oslo conference, Secretary Deles had occasion to meet Nobel Peace Prize winners, but there are no lobbying efforts,” Lacierda said in a statement Sunday.

“But please note that since Aceh [in Indonesia], there has been no significant peace accord reached. Hence, it is possible that there are groups who wish to nominate the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. But certainly, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process is not lobbying for it,” Lacierda added.

But Bayan’s Reyes said even the peace pact with the MILF did not qualify the President for a Peace Prize because it offered only “a deceptive framework...under the current anti-people government.”

He added that the pact was contingent on the acts of Congress, and was still open to challenge.

The House independent minority bloc, led by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, has been reminding the Palace of its promise to submit for scrutiny the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, with no success.

The Philippine Constitution Association has also come out with a study that shows the Bangsamoro peace deal was “legally infirm and thus is unconstitutional.”

Reyes said his group would also officially inform the Green Party that the UN would send its special rapporteurs to conduct a probe on the human rights situation, inaction on typhoon survivor issues and extreme poverty under Aquino.

Over the weekend, EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux called on the Aquino administration to carry out the anti-torture law, noting that Manila failed to hold those responsible for torture cases accountable.

Ledoux cited the recent incident of torture in the Philippines called the “wheel of torture” allegedly used by a Philippine National Police detention facility in Biñan, Laguna, where detainees were tortured by police.

“As it is, it seems that the organization that nominated President Aquino was misinformed on the true situation on the ground and the real effect of President Aquino’s policies on the Filipino people,” Colmenares said.

“A very glaring example is the case of Hacienda Luisita, a vast sugar plantation taken by the Cojuangco-Aquino clan from farm workers, who up till now are being harassed and killed by government forces because they are fighting for their lands,” he said.

Zarate said despite the signing of the peace accord in Mindanao, violations of human rights in the Moro communities continued, including the displacement of civilians due to military operations, and the arrests without warrant of Moros wrongly accused of being terrorists.

“The peace pact cannot just gloss over the numerous human rights violations committed against the Moro people, and would hardly be a justification for a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize,” Zarate said.

Reyes added that Aquino fostered regional instability and tension with the support of the US military pivot and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

He also accused Aquino of scuttling peace talks with the communist rebels by refusing to honor previous agreements.

The Bayan Muna lawmakers urged the international community to go to Mindanao and see the real situation and extreme suffering being endured by the displaced residents due to armed conflict.

“Let them see how hard it is to live in a tent city in Zamboanga, and the rampant human rights violations in Talaingod, among others,” Zarate said.

Palace: No plan to 'eliminate' Mayor Estrada By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated June 25, 2014 - 2:57pm


Photo released by the PNP shows Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada accompanying his son Sen. Jinggoy Estrada to CIDG chief Director Benjamin Magalong at Camp Crame yesterday as lawyer Jose Flaminiano looks on.

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang insisted on Wednesday that it has no involvement in the disqualification case filed against former President and now Manila City Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada.

"We would like to assure Mayor Estrada, and with all due respect to whatever was mentioned to him or confided to him by his allies, we have no plan to eliminate Mayor Estrada," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said at a televised press briefing.

Lacierda said they do not know the basis of the allegations that Malacañang had a hand in the petitions filed in the Supreme Court seeking the disqualification of Estrada as Manila mayor.

He noted that the petitions filed by former mayor Alfredo Lim and his lawyer Alicia Risos-Vidal are still pending in the high court, which is a separate and independent government institution.

"We have always maintained a distance from the Supreme Court. I don't know why they are now alluding to our involvement when we don't even know the proceedings that are happening in the Supreme Court in respect of the disqualification case against Mayor Estrada," Lacierda said.

The Palace official also denied that there is a "systematic plan" against members of Estrada's family who are in politics.

This comes after the Commission on Elections unseated Estrada's nephew, ER Ejercito, as Laguna governor due to poll overspending and after the Sandiganbayan found probable cause in the plunder and graft charges filed against Senator Jinggoy Estrada in connection with the pork barrel scam.

Lacierda pointed out that the Palace has no control over the actions of these government institutions, just like the Supreme Court which is set to rule on Estrada's disqualification case.

"These are instances... [which] have been initiated and are being decided by other bodies and another branch of government, separate and independent from the executive branch," Lacierda said.

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

PNoy inaugurates P4-B infra projects in Iloilo June 27, 2014 11:08am 650 41 0 758 Tags: Iloilo City (Updated 3:11 p.m.)


Official Gazette PH ✔ @govph Follow PHOTO: President Aquino during his inspection of the ongoing construction of the Iloilo Convention Center. 10:49 PM - 26 Jun 2014

President Benigno Aquino III on Friday led the inauguration of several infrastructure projects in Iloilo worth P4 billion.

Aquino first led the inauguration of four bridges along the Iloilo Circumferential Road (C-1) Jaro Bridge II in Iloilo City. The project is worth P2.1 billion.

He then inspected the P700-million Iloilo Convention Center in the Iloilo Business Park, Brgy. Old Airport, Mandurriao District.

The President then went on to inaugurate the two-kilometer section of the proposed P500-million Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. Avenue Road Widening Project in Brgy. San Rafael in the same district.

"Ang mga proyektong ito ang magpapabilis at magpapadali sa biyahe hindi lamang ng mga Ilonggo at Ilongga, kundi pati na rin ng mga turistang bumibisita at mga negosyanteng namumuhunan sa Iloilo," Aquino said in his speech.

"Buo ang kumpiyansa ko na ang mga pagbabagong ito ay maghahatid ng makabuluhang pagkakataon, at magbibigay ng higit na kakayahang magpanday ng maunlad na bukas hindi lang sa mga mamamayan ng Iloilo, kundi pati sa iba pang probinsya sa Panay," he added.

His speech, however, was momentarily disrupted by several protesters who were eventually taken away by police.

After this, he proceeded to inaugurate the P170-million Iloilo River Plains Subdivision Phase 1 in Brgy. Lanit, Jaro District.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, who was with Aquino, said the President's support was crucial in the overall realization of these projects.

"It was only in your office that Iloilo was noticed," he said in his speech at the event.

Aquino, for his part, assured residents that he will continue to seek reforms so progress will be continuous.

"Maigting nating ipinatutupad ang tapat at mabuting pamamahala sa ating mga institusyon upang hindi ito maging kasangkapan ng mga tiwali para sa pansariling interes," he said.

"Ang bawat tulay, kalsada, daungan, paliparan, dam, at gusali dito sa inyong lalawigan ang magpapakita sa mga susunod na henerasyon kung ano ang kayang abutin ng mamamayang buo ang pagtitiwala sa reporma, walang pagdadalawang-isip na makipagkapit-bisig, at handang tuparin ang kanilang mga pangarap," he added. – Kimberly Tan/VS/KG, GMA News

FROM THE TRIBUNE

Palace backs DoJ evaluation process on Abad, Alcala
Written by Tribune Sunday, 29 June 2014 00:00


PNoy, ALCALA, ABAD

Malacañang yesterday said it has confidence in the Department of Justice’s process of vetting two Cabinet officials implicated in the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) anomaly.

In response to questions about Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala’s vetting by the DoJ, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, in a radio interview, said: “The investigation process, evaluation process of the DoJ under the leadership of Secretary Leila de Lima is ‘colorblind,’ so we support the process.”

Both Abad and Alcala, both political allies of President Aquino, were named on the list submitted by alleged pork paying for the space and facilities.

“This is a free country. If you feel there is an issue you want to raise before the court, in this case the EDCA, any citizen can file petition questioning the legality,” Lacierda said.

“We believe that it (the EDCA) is constitutional so we are prepared to defend the outcome before the Supreme Court,” he added.

Lacierda added that there have already been previous petitions against the EDCA and for the third time around, the government was still willing to defend it.

Last June 3, the Supreme Court (SC) did not issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the implementation of EDCA.

Instead, the High Court ordered the respondents in the case to submit their respective comment on the petition questioning the constitutionality of the EDCA within 10 days from notice.

The respondents are Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Meanwhile, the SC ordered the consolidation of the petitions against the EDCA filed by former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada and the group of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

The petitioners argued that the EDCA violates Article 2, Section 8 of the 1987 Constitution, which prohibits the entry of nuclear weapons into the country because the EDCA does not state that it prohibits the entry of nuclear weapons into the Philippines.

They cited that only the prepositioning of nuclear weapons is prohibited under the EDCA.

The petitioners further argued that the EDCA should be nullified because it compromises the national interest.
They also believe that the EDCA is a treaty which requires the ratification by the Senate.

Despite the decision of some militant groups to challenge the constitutionality and legality of the EDCA at the SC, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin expressed hope that this development will not impede the implementation of the EDCA.

He made this statement in the wake of the SC’s ordering Malacanang, Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of National Defense to come out with comments justifying EDCA’s signing.

“I think the EDCA implementation would not be delayed, and right now it’s still on the planning stage,” Gazmin said.

He also said their comment will be formulated during the meeting sessions of the Mutual Defense Board and the Security Engagement Board.

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

Ochoa, Gazmin, et al. ordered to comment on anti-EDCA petitions By MARK MERUEÑAS, GMA NewsJune 3, 2014 2:51pm


OCHOA, GAZMIN

The Supreme Court has asked Malacañang to comment on the two petitions seeking to strike down the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States, according to SC Public Information Office chief and spokesman Theodore Te.

Apart from Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., also required to comment within 10 days were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario, Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, and the entire Philippine panel that negotiated for the EDCA.

The respondents were ordered to comment not only on the two petitions, but also on the petitioners' plea for the issuance of a temporary restraining order against the bilateral deal.

"The court, without necessarily giving due course to the petitions, required respondents to comment within 10 days from notice," Te said.

Te also said the two petitions have been consolidated.

The deal was contested before the SC through two petitions filed by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada, and by another group composed of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, party-list lawmakers from the "Makabayan" bloc, and former solons, among others.

Saguisag and Tañada claimed EDCA's terms and provisions are “lopsided in favor of the Americans.”

The second batch of petitioners, meanwhile, said the EDCA goes against the Philippines' national interest, is disadvantageous to Filipinos, and is mainly motivated by the US strategic re-balancing towards Asia and is therefore in the service of US security and economic interests.

Under EDCA, the US will be allowed 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 for a period of 10 years.

The petitioners said the EDCA would grant the US “carta blanche power to establish and operate de facto military bases anywhere on Philippine soil, minus the cost of paying for one.”

They also said the agreement would be a mere implementation of policies enshrined in the PHL-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) — a treaty whose constitutionality is being challenged for the first time before the high court with Saguisag and Tañada's petition.

President Benigno Aquino III has already expressed confidence that the EDCA, signed in April in time for US President Barack Obama's visit to Manila, can stand legal scrutiny even if it is challenged before the Supreme Court. —KBK, GMA News


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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