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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Supreme Court to Tackle Petitions Vs. EDCA Constitutionality

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno said yesterday the Supreme Court (SC) will conduct oral arguments on three petitions that challenged the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States governments.
Earlier, Solicitor General Florin Hilbay had sought the dismissal of the petitions against EDCA as he insisted that the agreement is constitutional as it is necessary for the country’s internal  and external security.
Because of the EDCA cases with the SC, Sereno refused to answer questions involving the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), specifically on the custody of a member of the United States Marines who is the suspect in the killing of a transgender identified as Jennifer Laude.
“I cannot say what the VFA says on the issue of custody because it is part of the pending cases. It will be debated very soon,” Sereno said during a forum of Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) at the Marco Polo Hotel in Pasig City yesterday.
“Even without the recent incident involving the transgender woman, we are already scrutinizing the EDCA,” she said.
In his consolidated comment, Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said President Aquino allowed EDCA in his duty to protect the Philippines as its commander-in-chief, chief executive, and chief architect of foreign policy as provided for under Section 4, Article II of the Constitution.
Hilbay said EDCA is necessary for the country’s internal and external security considering the “international platform of politics” as well as “recent events within Philippine territory.”
Thus, he said, EDCA is one of the security measures needed “to achieve a minimum credible defense to the manifold security concerns in the West Philippine Sea.”
At least three petitions have been filed challenging the constitutionality of EDCA that was signed between the Philippines and the US governments on April 28, 2014.
The SC had required several government officials to comment on the petitions and decided to tackle the plea for a temporary restraining order (TRO) once the comments are filed.
Required to file their comments were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Defense  Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and  Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Emmanuel Bautista, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, Ambassadors Eduardo Malaya and Lourdes Yparraguirre, Defense Assistant Secretary for Strategic Assessment Raymund Jose Quilup, and Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III.
The SC acted on the petitions filed separately by the group of former Senators Rene A.V. Saguisag and Wigberto E. Tanada, and those led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.
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