The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Malacañang and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to respond to a petition seeking to stop the joint military exercises between the Philippines and Japan.
At a media briefing, SC Public Information Office chief and spokesman Theodore Te said the high court gave the respondents 10 days from receipt of the notice to file their comment on the plea filed by a group led by ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio
Named respondents were Benigno Aquino III, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr, Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri, and Vice Admiral Jesus Millian, flag officer in command of the Philippine Navy.
In its petition, the group asked the high court to declare as unconstitutional a memorandum on defense cooperation, and a joint declaration providing for the joint military exercises between the two countries.
"The conduct of military exercises with the Japanese armed forces on our territory—without the permission of the Filipino people—is a brazen violation of [the Constitutional] prohibition... against military bases, troops, and facilities in Philippine soil," said the group.
The group said that while it believes the Philippines must forge alliances with other countries to defend the West Philippine Sea against China, "this must be done without sacrificing our sovereignty and within the bounds of the Constitution and existing laws."
Other petitioners included Alliance of Concerned Teachers national chairman Benjamin Valbuena, ACT for Sovereignty spokesperson Prof. Carl Marc Ramota, and ACT private schools vice chairperson Pro. Mark Benedict Lim.
The group accused Aquino of "knowingly and deliberately" violating the Constitution by surrendering the country's sovereignty by expanding Japanese military presence in the Philippine territory.
Earlier this year, Japan and the Philippines, in a defense ministerial meeting, said the two countries were entering into greater military and security cooperation through a "strategic partnership" that would include talks and activities between both countries' armed forces.
The petitioners noted that two military exercises had been conducted in the Philippines since the signing of a memorandum for the partnership: maritime exercises off the coast of Corregidor Island last May 12, and joint exercises at the Antonio Bautista Airbase in Palawan from June 22 to 24, 2015.
The group said a mutual defense treaty has yet to be signed for the joint exercises. This was in violation of Section 25, Article XVIII of the Constitution.
The group said the memorandum on defense cooperation, the joint declaration between the Philippines and Japan, and the military exercises already conducted all violated various portions of the Constitution, particularly Section 25, Article XVIII, Section 1, Article II on sovereignty, Section 7, Article II on the pursuit of independent foreign policy.