“We begin with the confidence that Senate Resolution No. 1414 is an expression of Constitutional Law on the matter of critical importance to the integrity of the Senate and the honor of this Republic.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – The Philippine Senate had passed a resolution requiring its concurrence for any treaty approved by the Philippine President to be valid and effective, such as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca).
The resolution was passed today, Nov. 10, as the Supreme Court (SC) is reportedly set to come out with an en banc decision declaring that Edca is constitutional. The SC rescheduled its deliberation on the treaty on Nov. 16.
The Senate resolution will be formally submitted to the Supreme Court.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Relations, filed Senate Resolution 1414, which was adopted, with 15 affirmative votes, one negative vote and three abstentions.
The resolution said Senate concurrence is required for treaties that allow foreign military troops, bases or facilities, as categorically stated in the 1987 Constitution.
“We begin with the confidence that Senate Resolution No. 1414 is an expression of Constitutional Law on the matter of critical importance to the integrity of the Senate and the honor of this Republic,” said Santiago in her sponsorship speech.
“It is on this premise that we believe with the same confidence that the Supreme Court will consider this resolution with decisive concern,” she added.
Petitioners, progressive groups and Manilakbayan delegates protested outside the Supreme Court before the en banc session. Protesters suspected that an SC decision declaring Edca’s constitutionality will be a “gift” to heads of state attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit.
“The timing of the SC decision, coming a few days before US President Barack Obama’s arrival in the Philippines, is disturbing, to say the least. It points to the Philippine government’s utter subservience to foreign interests,” said Renato M. Reyes, Jr., secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).
“Edca cannot be a mere implementing agreement of the Mutual Defense Treaty nor the Visiting Forces Agreement. The Edca’s scope is much broader since it allows permanent basing, the stockpiling of weapons, and the use of the Philippines as a launching pad for US military intervention. It allows the US use of our facilities, rent-free and tax-free. It transforms the entire country into a US military outpost,” Reyes added.
The resolution cites two provisions in the Constitution:
• Article 7, Section 12, which said “No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.”
• Article 18, Section 25, which bans the presence of foreign military bases and troops “except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum.”
In last year’s deliberation before the SC, Solicitor General Florin Hilbay argued that Edca is an executive agreement, and is merely an implementing agreement of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). He said there will only be “temporary” basing by US troops, who will construct barracks and runways that they will eventually leave behind.
Santiago said that in defense of Edca, the executive may cite Article 8, Section 4 of the Constitution, which provides that the Supreme Court may declare a treaty, international or executive agreement, or law, as constitutional, through a majority decision.
The provision, however, does not pertain to any particular treaty or agreement, such as the “prohibited treaty” concerning “foreign military bases, troops, or facilities.”
“The prohibitory character of this provision must command supremacy over the general and ambiguous language of the Constitution, Article 8, Section 4,” Santiago said.
Twelve other senators co-authored the resolution with Santiago, entitled “Resolution expressing the strong sense of the Senate that any treaty ratified by the President of the Philippines should be concurred in by the Senate, otherwise the treaty becomes invalid and ineffective.”
Senators who voted for the resolution were Santiago, Juan Edgardo Angara, Nancy Binay, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Chiz Escudero, Teofisto Guingona III, Lito Lapid, Loren Legarda, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Sergio Osmeña III, Aquilino Pimentel III, Grace Poe, Cynthia Villar and Ralph Recto and Piya Cayetano.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV voted against, while those who abstained were Senate President Franklin Drilon,Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Bam Aquino.
In June, Santiago submitted to the Supreme Court a copy of the proposed Resolution 1414, signed by 13 other senators.
Dozens of US bases in the Philippines were set up during the American colonial era, but these were all kicked out in 1991, after the Senate rejected the treaty renewing their stay. In 1999, the Senate approved the Visiting Forces Agreement, which allowed “visits” by US troops for joint war exercises with Philippine troops.