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Tribune Editorial

Expediency vs constitutionality

Tuesday, 19 January 2016 00:00 Published in Editorial

The Supreme Court vote upholding the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) as an executive agreement proved to be a battle between expediency and conformity with the Constitution with the fears fostered by Noynoy and the United States winning out.
The choice was clear in the majority rule and the concurring and dissenting opinions among the justices of the court.
Those who opposed the majority in favoring EDCA as an executive agreement were consistent in pointing out that the agreement should have been a treaty and needed the concurrence of the Senate.
The majority opinion penned by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the concurring vote of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio dwelt on the necessity of EDCA in the current situation of the country of being besieged by China and by nature through the onslaught of typhoons that are getting stronger by the year.
The majority vote was also consistent with the assertions of Malacañang and the United States that EDCA should be treated as an agreement to implement past treaties such as the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Carpio who is deeply involved in the arbitration case with the United Nations (UN) tribunal on the territorial dispute with China said in his concurring vote that “The EDCA does not detract from the legal arbitration case that the Philippines has filed against China under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLoS). The EDCA brings into the Philippine strategy the element of credible self-defense.”
Sereno’s take through the majority decision was that “In order to keep the peace in this region of the world, and to sustain itself at the same time against the destructive forces of nature, the Philippines will need friends. Who they are and what form the friendships will take, are for the President to decide.”
The question raised before the Supreme Court (SC) was not the constitutionality or much less the necessity of EDCA itself but the conformity to the Constitution of the procedures taken that led to the agreement.
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen in his dissent said “the majority’s take is the aftermath of squandered opportunity. We surrender to the dual narrative of expediency and the hegemonic view of the world from the eyes of a single superpower.”
Associate Justice Teresita de Castro noted that “While it is true that the Philippines cannot stand alone and will need friends within and beyond this region of the world, still we cannot offend our Constitution and bargain away our sovereignty.”
Associate Justice Arturo Brion put what was likely the fierce debates on EDCA among the SC justices in context as he said “This case is not an easy one to resolve for many reasons — the stakes involved in the light of contemporary history, the limited reach of judicial inquiry, the limits of the court’s own legal competence in fully acting on petitions before it, and the plain and clear terms of our Constitution.”
He said that the agreement is constitutionally deficient and should be referred to the Senate despite the SC decision to uphold it.
Brion also disputed point by point the assertions of Sereno who was the ponencia of the majority opinion and held that EDCA instead of being the implementation of the 1951 MDT and the 1998 VFA, is significantly broader in scope than the two treaties, and effectively added to what the MDT and the VFA provided.
While the vote was 10-4-1, likely as a result of the lobbying of the Palace, it appeared that the dissenting votes carried more weight than the arguments posited by those in the majority.
As Brion said, a “cure” is needed to remove the deficiency in EDCA and consequently the SC ruling which can be used as precedent to similar deficient agreements with foreign powers in the future.

What price EDCA

Monday, 18 January 2016 00:00 Published in Editorial

After the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) as an executive agreement and was thus deemed constitutional, suspicions swirled that the United States gave something big in return to the administration of Noynoy for being able to swing the deal.
In a 10-4-1 ruling, the SC threw out the constitutional questions on EDCA and affirmed it as an executive agreement that does not need concurrence of the Senate.
The majority decision of the SC, issued Jan. 12, oozed with justifications based on the need of the country to firm its defense against foreign aggression and natural calamities and little on the arguments on the constitutional merits of EDCA and questions on its being a treaty as asserted by the Senate.
“Mere fears cannot curtail the exercise by the President of the Philippines of his constitutional prerogatives in respect of foreign affairs,” the epilogue of the majority ruling said.
“In order to keep the peace in its archipelago in this region of the world, and to sustain itself at the same time against the destructive forces of nature, the Philippines will need friends,” the SC said.
“Who they are and what form the friendships will take, are for the President to decide,” it added.
The SC ruling was handed down at the same time that the US and the Philippine governments held the so-called 2+2 ministerial consultations among US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin at the US Department of State office.
The meeting was supposed to have extensively discussed the South China Sea issue, “with the US side reiterating the US ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines (…) The US also conveyed that it remains committed to the AFP’s (Armed Forces of the Philippines) modernization program,” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Paul Galvez said.
Curiosity was induced by the similarity in the subject that the US-RP meeting had taken up and the key stand of the majority decision on EDCA.
It was reported that the US and Philippine government officials merely traded congratulations upon learning of the SC decision favoring EDCA.
Militant groups recalled that Noynoy was fishing for a huge military aid from the US government in exchange for EDCA.
A New York Times article in September last year noted that “In private talks, the government of President Benigno Aquino III has pressed the United States for up to $300 million in aid.” It quoted a “senior Philippine official” who spoke on condition of anonymity because US officials have asked to keep the talks confidential.
The article, however, said the Obama administration balked at the proposal “because it worries about corruption and the Philippines’ capacity to handle such influx of resources.”
Thus, the question that arises now is whether or not Noynoy got the huge bonanza from the US.
Since it will be in the form of military aid, such an assistance will be most welcome in upgrading the country’s decrepit military force.
The only problem is the practice of the opaque administration of Noynoy in withholding such information from the public and the expressed fear of the Obama administration in letting Noynoy and his officials in handling such a tempting amount.
Another curiosity is the absence of any mention of compensation or increases in US military aid except for a pledge of the Philippines getting a big part of the US assistance targeted for the region which according to US Ambassador Philip Goldberg would be around $79 million.
For an agreement that would make the Philippines the center of the US government’s Asian pivot policy, that amount is rather small.
With the election season and Noynoy’s bet agonizing at the tail-end of surveys, a bigger amount would be needed to boost Mar Roxas’ chances and assure the “continuity” of the controversial agreement.

Can’t put a good candidate down

Sunday, 17 January 2016 00:00 Published in Editorial

It seems that instead of having a sigh of relief, the camp of United Nationalist Alliance standard bearer Jojo Binay would have to hold its breath for the most vicious phase of the demolition campaign against Binay after he topped the recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) presidential survey, the first to be held this year.
The uniform statements of the Palace, the Liberal Party (LP), Noynoy and his Senate stooge vice presidential race doormat Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV attest to the final make or break demolition assault on Binay.
The latest SWS survey affirmed the results of the earlier Pulse Asia survey that showed Binay had bounced back strongly to lead the presidential race.
After the Pulse Asia survey showed Binay jumping to the lead in the showdown in May with 33 percent preference, SWS affirmed the Binay surge showing in the latest poll that he had put a good margin with the rest of the presidential pack with his 31 percent choice among respondents.
The latest pre-election survey showed Binay with a five-point gain from the 26 percent in December and a seven point gain over Poe.
Both the Pulse Asia and SWS surveys confirmed the worst fears of the LP and Noynoy over the solid base of about 25 percent to 30 percent of voters who will not waver whatever muck is hurled against Binay.
It also showed the more than one-year long demolition campaign, which is still ongoing, had little effect on Binay’s potency at the ballot.
After Pulse Asia released the results of the survey last Dec. 22, Trillanes started making noise about resuming the open-ended Senate blue ribbon subcommittee inquisition on Binay and members of his family.
The other day, Noynoy exuded confidence that the campaign period would be difficult for Binay and his survey numbers will drop.
Noynoy may have just dropped hints that the pollsters are merely leading on the public and that the subsequent survey numbers would favor the candidates of Noynoy.
Aquino made a fearless forecast that Binay’s ratings would drop once the official campaign season starts in February, saying the public’s mind should be refreshed on the issues Binay is facing including his supposed involvement in corrupt dealings.
“It’s a snapshot right now. We are not yet in the campaign period and there may be some people who tend to forget the negative issues but when it is time to vote those can’t be avoided,” was Noynoy’s prophetic words.
On the numbers of his anointed Mar Roxas, he said “there’s no way to go but up.”
Caloocan Rep. Egay Erice, a bad choice for an LP spokesman since he can’t even effectively disguise his party’s sinister plot, said the same things as that of Noynoy, while adding that “the real issue here is good governance and a corrupt leader cannot provide good governance. The problem is we are concentrated on issues like foundling and eligibilities and no issue as far as public good is concern.”
It doesn’t need a rocket scientist to add up Erice’s words as the LP’s black ops campaign shifting from independent candidate Sen. Grace Poe and PDP-Laban bet Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to Binay.
Poe is currently grappling with a barrage of petitions to disqualify her from the race due to citizenship and residency issues while Duterte is being sought to be bumped from the polls on technicalities due to the unconventional way he entered the race.
“But I am confident that the Filipino people will not elect corrupt leaders. The most important is how the campaign will be conducted,” Erice added.
Erice and Noynoy should also re-examine their battle cry harping on voters not electing the corrupt since this may backfire on them, Mar and their candidates amid the corruption issues LP members are facing.






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