Colmenares: New US-PH deal will be questioned before SC

By Dharel Placido,

Posted at Apr 29 2014 12:22 PM | Updated as of Apr 29 2014 10:47 PM

MANILA – Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares said the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and United States should be questioned before the Supreme Court.

Colmenares said the Philippine constitution is clear against the entry of foreign troops and establishment of foreign military facilities in the country without Senate approval.

''Dapat kilatisin ito ng Korte Suprema, kasi hindi nakilatis ito ng Senado,'' Colmenares told ABS-CBN's ''Umagang Kay Ganda."

He said the entry of additional US troops and establishment of foreign military facilities in the country need Senate concurrence, a process he said the EDCA did not undergo.

The government has said the EDCA, signed on Monday by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, is an executive agreement and therefore does not need Senate approval.

Colmenares cited Section 25 of Article XVIII of the Constitution that states, ''After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America concerning military bases, foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State."

''Pagbigyan natin ang Philippine government na hindi nga base, eh ano ba ang nakasaad sa Constitution? After the expiry of the US-RP military bases agreement, no foreign troops, bases or facilities shall be allowed entry into the Philippines without treaty,'' Colmenares said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) already answered questions on the constitutionality of the EDCA, saying the provision on the basing of foreign troops and establishment of foreign military facilities does not apply to EDCA.

In a primer on the EDCA, the DFA said the security deal ''provides that the access and use of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) facilities by the US military will be 'at the invitation of the Philippines and with full respect for the Philippine Constitution and Philippine laws.'''

The DFA argued that there will be no such ''foreign military bases'' because its defining features - extraterritoriality, exclusivity in use and foreign ownership – will not be applicable in the ''Agreed Locations'' or areas in AFP-owned and controlled facilities which US troops can have access to under the EDCA.

The entry of US troops for military exercises, on the other hand, ''is already allowed under the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which is a treaty concurred in by the Senate and upheld by the Supreme Court,'' the DFA said.

US officials have also repeatedly assured that EDCA is not a basing agreement, but a pact designed to promote capacity building towards modernization of the AFP, and strengthening of the AFP's external defense and capacity to respond to disasters.

Colmenares, meanwhile, opined that the deal will be more beneficial to the US, given the fact that it was the one which proposed the deal, as indicated in previous hearings in Congress.

Colmenares added the deal is useless, since US President Barack Obama did not explicitly say that the US will defend the Philippines in case of an attack by China.

He said with the US' non-committal stance, the Philippines seems to be getting the short end of the stick.

The lawmaker said he also wonders why the deal is shrouded in secrecy, noting that Congress has yet to be furnished a copy of the agreement after it was signed.

"May kopya na si President Obama, tayong lahat wala pang kopya… the transparency issue is very important kasi parang may tinatago sila,'' he said.