Palace: Govt prepared to defend EDCA from latest suit

Philippine Army Cpl. Kenneth Dumagco, foreground, moves to a notional extract location during helicopter insert and extract training with U.S. soldiers on Fort Magsaysay, Philippines, April 29, 2014. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Pete Thibodeau

Philippine Army Cpl. Kenneth Dumagco, foreground, moves to a notional extract location during helicopter insert and extract training with U.S. soldiers on Fort Magsaysay, Philippines, April 29, 2014. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Pete Thibodeau

MANILA (Mabuhay) — Malacañang said Saturday the government is prepared to defend the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), after a third suit questioning the controversial mutual defense pact was lodged before the Supreme Court Friday.

While presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said it is the right of any citizen to file a petition questioning the legality or constitutionality of the pact, he said the Palace believe the deal is constitutional.

“We believe this is constitutional. We are prepared to defend the EDCA before the Supreme Court,” he said on government-run dzRB radio.

He said the Solicitor General will defend the constitutionality of the pact, which was signed on the first day of US President Barack Obama’s visit to the Philippines last April.

The latest suit questioning the EDCA was lodged before the Supreme Court Friday by labor groups from the public and private sectors.

Friday’s petitioners, including the Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees, claimed the government committed grave abuse of discretion and violated the 1987 Philippine Constitution when it signed the EDCA.

Named as respondents were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.

Other respondents included defense undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, who chairs the country’s negotiating panel for EDCA, and panel members Ambassador Lourdes Yparraguirre, Ambassador Eduardo Malaya, Justice undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, and Defense undersecretary Raymund Jose Quilop.

The petitioners said the EDCA violates provisions of the Constitution pertaining to the preferential use of Filipino labor and domestic materials; tax exemption; national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national interest; freedom from nuclear weapons; role of the judiciary in settling disputes; autonomy of local government units; and treaties with other countries, specifically military treaties.

Under EDCA, the US may build structures, store and preposition weapons, defense supplies and materiel, station troops, civilian personnel and defense contractors, transit and station vehicles, vessels, and aircraft for 10 years.

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

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