THE implementation of the Philippine-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) will lead to the return of the US military bases in the country that were shut down in 1991 after the Senate refused to ratify another treaty that would extend their stay in the country.
The warning was raised by the petitioners during Tuesday’s oral arguments at the Supreme Court (SC) on the cases seeking the nullification of the Edca, which was signed by Philippine and US officials on April 28.
Lawyer and a known Aquino clan ally Rene Saguisag, who is one of the petitioners against Edca, said the agreement would allow the presence of US troops in the country that could last for decades.
Saguisag was among the so-called “Magnificent 12” senators who voted against the continued stay of the US military bases despite then-President Corazon Aquino’s support for the signing of a new treaty.
Saguisag insisted that Edca is an international agreement that warrants the concurrence by the Senate under the Constitution.
“It’s not up to the President or defense secretary to decide on something that has intergenerational consequences,” Saguisag said.
“We remain convinced that we voted on the right side of history. I am here in that continuum, that our 1991 collegial vote not be nullified by one man, no matter how much i like him and wish for him to succeed,” Saguisag said in an apparent reference to President Aquino.
Lawyer Rachel Pastores, one of the counsels for the petitioners, also claimed that Edca is a “basing agreement” that would restore US bases and facilities in the country, which is a violation of the provision of the Constitution, which prohibits foreign military bases and permanent stationing of troops.
She added that the agreed locations pertained to in Edca, where the US forces and troops shall be stationed, are akin to former military bases.
Meanwhile, former University of the Philippines Law Dean Pacifico Agabin, also a counsel for the petitioners, said the Republic of the Philippines (RP)-US Military Bases Agreement of 1947 “is being repackaged, embroidered and gift-wrapped” in the form of Edca.
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, an appointee of Aquino, questioned why none of the petitioners sought the mandatory transmittal of Edca to the Senate.
On the other hand, in an interview with reporters, Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said he would argue before the Court that Edca is just an implementing agreement to augment the provisions of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).
“It’s just an implementing agreement. There are general commitments under the MDT; there are more specific commitments under the VFA. The MDT implements all of those commitments through the power of the President as commander-in-chief, chief executive and head of foreign relations,” Hilbay said.
Hilbay insisted that there is no need for the concurrence of the Senate before Edca could be implemented because “the prior authorizations, the necessary licenses are already there.”