Why Joker questions legality of US-PH defense deal

By Christina Mendez, The Philippine Star

Posted at Apr 30 2014 03:07 AM | Updated as of Apr 30 2014 11:07 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Former Sen. Joker Arroyo questioned Tuesday the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that the Philippines and the United States signed on Monday hours before US President Barrack Obama arrived in the country.

Arroyo also criticized Malacañang for leaving the Philippine Senate in the dark over the new agreement.

“What did the Philippines get out of the Obama visit? Zero. Analyze it. We rushed to sign the EDCA as a gift to President Obama, signed by our defense secretary and the US ambassador that would allow more American troops in the Philippines,” he said. “No one, but no one was consulted about its constitutionality or participated in its preparation. It was exclusively Malacañang directed,” said Arroyo, who was among the senators who voted in 1991 for the shutdown of US bases in the country the following year.

Rather than rhetoric, Arroyo said he was expecting that the US would warn China that it will defend the Philippines once Chinese troops harass local fishermen and troops stationed in the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.

“What did we get in exchange? Heaping shibboleths on America’s ‘longest ally,’ President Obama also praised the culinary skills of the White House Filipino executive chef,” he added. “It was hoped that he would say, at least, that in case Filipino fishermen and Navy supplies go to the disputed islands and the China maritime fleet fires at or harasses them, America will strongly caution China so that we don’t get embroiled in a shooting war,” he added.

Arroyo also called on the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to look into the 1914 War Plan Orange No. III prepared by the US War Department. The 1914 War Plan, according to Arroyo, outlined America’s defense of the Philippines in case it is invaded.

It was unearthed in the research of the Civil Liberties Union officers that included Jose Diokno, Lorenzo Tañada, JBL Reyes, Calixto Zaldivar and J. Antonio Araneta that opposed the extension of the US bases, which was to expire in 1977 during the martial law years.

Arroyo also recalled how the Philippines merely became a buffer zone for US troops when Japanese troops invaded the country during World War II.

“True enough, when the Japanese invaded the Philippines after Pearl Harbor, the US followed exactly the strategy as outlined by the US War Department,” Arroyo said.

He pointed out that there was, in fact, no strategy for the defense of the Philippines “except to treat us as a buffer to delay the invader’s southward advance.”

It saved Australia but not the Philippines, Arroyo noted.

Apart from the heaps of gifts showing admiration to Obama, Arroyo said the Aquino administration also released the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing the trust rating of Filipinos for the US president.

“SWS gifted Mr. Obama with a survey – 85 percent of Filipinos trust the US. In his four-nation tour, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, our country was tops in gift giving,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo’s criticism came hours after Obama ended his Asian tour with a pitch for alliance.

On Monday, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, also slammed the EDCA.

“This is an unfair surprise on the Philippine Senate which, under the Constitution, shares the treaty-making power with the President,” Santiago said.