SC declares with finality: EDCA is constitutional

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday declared with finality that the controversial Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States of America is constitutional.

This was after the SC dismissed the motions for reconsideration (MRs) filed by the petitioners, namely, the groups of Bayan and Bayan Muna party-list and former Senator Rene Saguisag.

In a press conference, SC Public Information Office (PIO) Chief and Spokesman Atty. Theodore O. Te said that “the Court, as per Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal Sereno and voting 9-4 (Associate Justices Francis Jardeleza and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, no part because of previous participation as Solicitor General and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, respectively), DENIED petitioners’ Motion for Reconsideration filed against its Decision on Jan. 12, 2016 sustaining the constitutionality of the ENHANCED DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENT (EDCA) between the United States and America and the Philippines.”

In their MRs, the petitioners argued that the SC erred when it ruled that the EDCA was not a treaty.

The petitioners claimed that the EDCA must be in the form of a treaty in order to comply with the constitutional restriction under Article XVIII, Section 25 of the 1987 Constitution on foreign military bases, troops and facilities.

Likewise, they reiterated their arguments on the issues of telecommunications, taxation and nuclear weapons.

To this, the SC said that “(p)etitioners do not present new arguments to buttress their claims of error on the part of this Court. They have rehashed their prior arguments and made them responsive to the structure of the Decision in Saguisag, yet the points being made are the same.”

The EDCA was signed in April 2014 when United States President Barack Obama visited the Philippines.

In its Jan. 12, 2016 decision, the SC recognized the authority of the President of the Republic of the Philippines to enter into an executive agreement involving foreign military bases pursuant to Article 18, Section 25 of the 1987 Constitution.

This was the reason why the highest court of the land dismissed the petitions questioning the EDCA.

Under the said provision of the 1987 Constitution, the President of the Philippines is allowed to enter into an executive agreement involving foreign military bases if the agreement is just the implementation of the existing law or treaty.

According to the SC, the EDCA is an executive agreement for the implementation of the treaties which allow the presence of foreign troops or foreign facility in the country.

The said treaties are the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

The SC said that because the EDCA is an executive agreement, it does not anymore require the ratification by the Senate of the Philippines.

With this, the SC declared the EDCA as constitutional.

The result of the voting then was 10-4 in favor of the EDCA.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. Aranal-Sereno was the ponente of the decision.

The four magistrates who also voted on Tuesday against the constitutionality of the EDCA were Associate Justices Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo D. Brion, Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe and Marvic F. Leonen.

Associate Justice Francis H. Jardeleza also inhibited from the voting because he was a former Solicitor General and handled the case of the EDCA. Perfecto Raymundo/PNA/