DAVAO CITY – Activists described today’s ruling of the Supreme Court in favor for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement as a “sad day for democracy”.
Voting 10 -4 and one abstaining, the Supreme Court declared as constitutional the agreement between the Philippines and the United States, which allows the increased presence of US military troops in the country.
Bayan Muna partylist representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate expressed dismay over the ruling.
“This is truly unfortunate, a sad day, for those of us fighting for our national sovereignty and genuine independence of our country from foreign dictates, manipulation and control, particularly coming from the US,” the lawmakers said.
Colmenares and Zarate are among the petitioners asking the High Court to declare the EDCA as unconstitutional and invalid, and to permanently enjoin its implementation and to stop any further negotiations on agreed locations for implementation.
Colmenares said that the agreement is “highly disadvantageous to the Filipino people.”
“The EDCA is terribly lopsided to the US. Aside from the de facto return of US bases in the Philippines which brought for us such abuses like Jennifer Laude, Nicole, and others, the Edca provides for rent-free, tax exemptions for US forces and their contractors, as well as the unlimited term of the EDCA which may go beyond 10 years,” Colmenares said.
“This is a sweetheart deal for the US. We gain nothing from this but a trampled-on sovereignty,” he added.
Zarate added that the EDCA will serve for the economic and military interests of the US, not for the protection of the Philippine territories versus incursions.
“The legal imprimatur given to EDCA will not only thrust our country once again as the primary battering ram of US aggression and militarization in the Asia-Pacific region, but, it will also make the Philippines a disposable pawn of the US in her growing imperialist war with China,” Zarate said.
Sheena Duazo of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Davao region described Edca as “nothing but an agreement between a master and its puppets.”
“We know the horrors brought upon us by the US troops, history taught us. We also know that aside from violating our sovereignty it can magnet attacks from the many enemies of US,” she said.
Duazo also said that EDCA cannot help the country in resolving the crisis in the West Philippine SEa.
“The US has no intention to do that. It is being used by the US to make the Philippines its doormat to China,” said Duazo.
Environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment also said they are expecting “more nuclear armed and powered US vessels to enter in our country and roam our territories.”
“Increased presence of US troops will consequently cause more destructive military exercises and maneuvering even within protected and environmentally critical areas, and more incidents of toxic waste dumping similar to what we have already experienced in the past,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
Bautista said the move proves their belief that SC “is just a rubber stamp” for the US military’s interventionist policies in the country.
“The SC previously upheld the Visiting Forces Agreement as constitutional, and recently junked the Writ of Kalikasan against the US Navy for the damages it inflicted upon the Tubbataha Reef National Park,” said Bautista.
In January 17, 2012, US Navy ship USS Guardian trespassed into the Tubbataha Reef, a world heritage site, overriding local maritime authorities and destroying a large swath of pristine reef ecosystems in the process.
In September 2014, the SC junked the Writ of Kalikasan petition filed by various personalities and groups, including Kalikasan, which demanded justice and appropriate compensation from the grounding incident.
According to the SC, while there are clear violations of law, the US are not liable under the EDCA, VFA, or any other Philippine law.
Meanwhile, the Public Interest Law Center, counsel for petitioner Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, et al, will file a motion for reconsideration of the decision.
Rachel Pastores, PILC managing counsel said the SC “kowtowed to strong pressure for more massive, more permanent US presence in the Asia Pacific.”
“Despite clear provisions in the Philippine Constitution – Article 18, Section 25 – 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, the SC uses a roundabout argument to justify US military presence in the Philippines by mere presidential prerogative,” she said.
Pastores said the ruling that EDCA is merely an “implementing agreement” hinged upon previous treaties which missed the historical and legal opportunity to assert Philippine sovereignty over Philippine territory.
“The SC sidestepped the main argument: EDCA, so different from MDT or VFA, enables the US to set up military bases anew in the Philippines,” she said.
Members of the LGBT community also condemned the SC decision saying it gives a go signal to the rape, abuse and murder of our people at the hands of US soldiers.
“The bitter justice that the local court gave to Jennifer Laude was entirely cancelled out by today’s traitorous decision,” said Aaron Bonette, spokesperson of Bahaghari.
“Though it is a blow against the efforts of all freedom loving Filipinos, the SC decision marks a new chapter in the long struggle for genuine freedom and democracy. The LGBT community will continue to join the people in opposing the presence of foreign military troops in the Philippines,” Bonette said. (davaotoday.com)