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Gov’t set to defend EDCA before SC

MANILA, Philippines - The government is ready to defend before the Supreme Court (SC) the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) forged by the Aquino administration with the US government last April.

Newly appointed Solicitor General Florin Hilbay revealed yesterday that their office is finalizing government’s answer to several petitions filed with the high court questioning the constitutionality of the deal.

“The Office of the Solicitor General is due to file its consolidated comment sometime this month. This is our most important case right now,” he told reporters at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

If the high court decides to set oral arguments on the case, Hilbay said he would most likely take the podium and justify the EDCA before the magistrates.

Hilbay argued the government’s case in the oral arguments on petitions against the controversial Reproductive Health Law before the SC last year.

Hilbay said the OSG is also awaiting the ruling on its appeal of the SC decision striking down the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program.

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He revealed the OSG’s plans after meeting with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima behind closed doors.

“The Office of the Solicitor General is an attached agency of the DOJ for budgetary purposes and there are many cases that require interaction between the OSG and DOJ,” he said.

Petitions were filed in the SC last May by a group led by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada and militant lawmakers led by Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate.

Another group led by Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement (Courage) filed a third petition last June.

They asked the high tribunal to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the implementation of the deal.

In a nutshell, the groups alleged that EDCA violates provisions on national sovereignty, territorial integrity and interests, freedom from nuclear weapons and autonomy of local government units in the charter.

Petitioners also argued that EDCA is a treaty – not merely an executive agreement as the Palace has claimed – which needs concurrence of the Senate before it could be implemented.

Because of this, they said the agreement violates Article XVIII Section 25 of the Constitution, which requires that any foreign military bases, troops or facilities “shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate.”

They also alleged that the deal violates Article II Section 8 of the Constitution, which prohibits nuclear weapons in the country.

Petitioners further alleged that the deal is disadvantageous to the government. For instance, they said American troops will be exempted from taxes and fees in the use of public utilities, thus depriving the government of its power of taxation.

The groups also believed that EDCA promotes the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the US, which also violates the Constitution that rejects war as a national policy.

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