By Jelly F. Musico
MANILA, Nov. 27 (PNA) – Senate President Franklin Drilon on Thursday said Malacanang will have to submit the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) for Senate ratification if the Supreme Court decides it is a treaty.
Drilon made this reaction as Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chairperson of the Senate committee on foreign relations, decided to conduct public hearing on Monday next week to determine whether EDCA needs concurrence of the Senate.
”The whether or not it is the matter that the Senate must ratify is an issue in the SC. Malacanang will have to submit it if the SC decides that it is a treaty which is subject for ratification,” Drilon said.
Drilon said no law would require Malacanang to transmit the EDCA to the Senate “because they hold the view that it is an agreement.”
Drilon, however, said he respected the view of Santiago and her decision to conduct public hearing on the EDCA, an agreement between the United States of America and the Philippines signed last April 28 that seeks to bolster the US-Philippines security relationship.
”We respect the opinion of Sen. Defensor Santiago. Certainly, the hearing can be done,” Drilon said.
According to Santiago, Sections 1 and 2 of the Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation may be used as the basis of the EDCA hearing.
The rules state that formal inquiries or investigations may extend to any and all matters vested by the Constitution in Congress and/or in the Senate alone and that inquiries may be initiated by the Senate or any of its Committees if the matter is within its competence,” the senator said.
The senator further said that the mere fact that a petition against the constitutionality of the EDCA is pending before the Supreme Court does not prevent the Senate from conducting its own public hearing.
“Under the Senate Rules, no proceeding before any government agency can inhibit the Senate from conducting its own proceedings,” Santiago said.
She also clarified the Senate is not restricted to hold a hearing for purposes only of concurrence. The committee can hold a public hearing which can be justified under the right to public information.
“If the hearing is within the purview of the treaty clause of the Constitution, it is for the purpose of finding out whether the treaty is to be considered valid and effective and the public hearing can come out with the information that the EDCA is subject to Senate concurrence. It does not mean that the Senate foreign relations committee will require the Senate to vote on concurrence,” Santiago said.
Santiago said the Senate hearing will also tackle the constitutional ban on foreign military bases, troops, or facilities in the country, except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate.
“Contrary to the claim that the EDCA does not involve the establishment of military bases, the EDCA gives the US rights of possession, control, and use over areas of Philippine territory described as ‘Agreed Locations,” she said. “These rights amount to the maintenance of military bases in the Agreed Locations.”
She said the EDCA allows the maintenance of military bases in the country, which cannot be done without the approval of the Senate.
Santiago said that under the Constitution, the authority of the Senate to concur on a treaty is the decisive measure to make the EDCA constitutional, if at all, the Senate will express concurrence. If the Senate does not concur, then the treaty does not become a law.
“The Constitution is categorical. It requires Senate concurrence whether the document is called a treaty or any other international agreement,” the senator said.
Santiago clarified that the EDCA cannot be viewed as an implementing agreement of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
“In international law, there is no such thing as an implementing treaty especially in our Constitution. Every treaty has to be on the basis on Constitutional requirement, whether implementing or not,” Santiago said.
Santiago added that the concurrence requirement for the EDCA is different from the requirements of the MDT. The EDCA may not fall under the prohibition if it is subject to Senate concurrence.
“The MDT is only for the purpose of making the treaty Philippine law but the concurrence requirement for EDCA is for the purpose of saving the treaty from the prohibition in the Constitution, Article 18, Section 25,” the senator said. (PNA)