BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Two groups opposed to the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) have condemned what they described as the “railroading” of the treaty last night at the Senate.
The JPEPA was approved, close to midnight, with a vote of 16-4. Those who voted “Yes” were Senate President Manuel Villar, Senate President Pro-Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, JPEPA sponsor Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Edgardo Angara, Rodolfo Biazon, Alan Peter Cayetano, Juan Ponce Enrile, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Ramon Revilla Jr, Manuel Roxas II, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Richard Gordon and Manuel Lapid. Those who voted “No” were Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Ma. Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, Francis “Chiz” Escudero, and Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Joker Arroyo and Pia Cayetano were absent from the voting, while Antonio Trillanes IV is in prison.
In a statement, the NO DEAL! Movement and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) said they were not surprised that the JPEPA was approved while the country was not watching.
“This treaty has been negotiated by Malacañang and signed by Ms. Gloria Arroyo in virtual secrecy,” the two groups said. “The undemocratic and non-transparent manner with which the deal has been conceived has resulted in a seriously flawed agreement that threatens to further destroy the jobs and livelihood of Filipino workers, farmers and fishers and further destroy local industries and stunt long-term economic development.”
These defects of the agreement, as well as the questionable gains of the treaty such as the supposed increased access of Filipino nurses and health workers to Japan, had been exposed in Senate hearings, NO DEAL! Movement and Bayan further said.
“The Senate hearings have also exposed the JPEPA as unconstitutional as it violates the provisions of the 1987 Constitution on foreign ownership and investment among others,” the two groups added.
They also criticized as “lacking in nationalist credentials” the senators who voted in favor of the JPEPA, of whom four — Villar, Roxas, Legarda, and Lacson — had expressed presidential aspirations.
NO DEAL! Movement and Bayan vowed to use all available means — “from mass protests to the Supreme Court” — to stop the deal’s implementation.
“We believe in economic cooperation among countries such as through bilateral trade and investment deals,” NO DEAL! Movement and Bayan said. “But such cooperation must be founded on mutual respect and benefit. JPEPA has completely failed to meet these basic and non-negotiable requirements.” (Bulatlat)