MANILA - Malacañang is ready to defend the legality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) as labor groups filed another petition questioning the security deal with the United States.
“We believe that it is constitutional so we are prepared to defend the EDCA before the Supreme Court,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a radio interview yesterday.
Lacierda said anyone is free to raise the issue before the court.
The Philippines and the US signed the EDCA in April, a move seen to counter China’s aggressive stance in the West Philippine Sea. Officials claimed the 10-year deal would help upgrade the Philippine military, one of the weakest in the Asia-Pacific region.
The agreement allows the US to build temporary facilities and store equipment in Philippine military bases.
Officials are determining what bases will be covered by the agreement.
Earlier, labor groups Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement (Courage) called for the scrapping of EDCA, saying it violated the Constitution.
“EDCA means the massive deployment of US military troops and weaponry into the country unprecedented since World War II. All freedom- and nation-loving Filipinos should stand up against it. We should not allow the US or any foreign power to re-occupy the Philippines,” the petitioners said.
The labor groups asked the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of the deal, which was signed amid tensions at the West Philippine Sea.
The petition was the third legal challenge confronting the security agreement. The first was filed by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada, two of the 12 lawmakers who voted for the shutdown of US bases in 1991.
Backing their petition were former University of the Philippines (UP) president Francisco Nemenzo Jr. and former UP College of Law dean Pacifico Agabin; Sr. Mary John Mananzan; Steve Salonga, a son of former Senate president Jovito Salonga; lawyers Harry Roque, Evalyn Ursua and Edre Olalia; Carol Pagaduan-Araullo and Roland Simbulan, and former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño.
The petitioners claimed EDCA has no legal basis as the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the US has been superseded by the 1987 Constitution, which renounces war as a national policy.
The second was filed by House lawmakers – Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate, Gabriela party-list Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emi de Jesus, Alliance of Concerned Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap and Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon – belonging to the Makabayan bloc and leaders of different groups.
The petitioners argued that EDCA would only benefit the US and derogate the country’s dignity.
Joining them were National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, activist Renato Constantino Jr., film and television director Joel Lamangan, former lawmakers Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza and Rafael Mariano, Kilusang Mayo Uno secretary general Roger Soluta, Salvador France of Pamalakaya and Clemente Bautista of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.