Wednesday, January 13, 2016

No constitutional crisis over EDCA ruling — experts

From CNN Philippines (Jan 13): No constitutional crisis over EDCA ruling — experts

Filipino and American soldiers in a joint military training activity

The two branches of government are at two opposing views when it comes to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The military deal between the United States and the Philippine governments has become controversial, especially when questions on its constitutionality were raised in the Supreme Court (SC).

At one hand, the Senate said EDCA must have its approval. But there is also the SC ruling that says there's no need for that.

See: SC rules EDCA is constitutional

For lawyer Harry Roque, one of the petitioners, this created constitutional crisis. But experts believe otherwise.

Trident Defense president Kristoffer Purisima, for one, said he doesn't see a brewing constitutional crisis over the EDCA ruling.

“There will be constitutional crisis if one or more of the branches of government assumes or dares to assume more than its allocated sphere of power under the constitution,” said Purisima.

He pointed out that as the final arbiter of the Constitution, the high court could solely interpret the law.

“I believe in this case that the litigants before the Supreme Court including the Senate, although they may and are entitled to exhaust every legal remedy available to them, eventually would accept and respect the decision of the Supreme Court whatever it may be,” explained Purisima.

Purisima said EDCA is not a stand-alone agreement. But it should be viewed consistent with the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty.

And contrary to perceived fears, he thinks that EDCA doesn't lead to the surrender of Philippine sovereignty to a foreign power—in this case, the United States.

“The EDCA effectively does not impose any new burdens or require any additional obligations on the part of Philippine government in terms of its relationship with the US,” said Purisima.

Related: A quick look at what EDCA is all about

According to Purisima, there is always a possibility that a ruling maybe overturned or modified. But when it comes to the court's ruling on EDCA, it stands on firm legal ground.

Geopolitical analyst Richard Heydarian agreed with Purisima that a constitutional crisis is out of the picture.

Heydarian admitted though, he was surprised with the decision where an overwhelming majority voted in favor of EDCA. He expected it to be a close vote.

“To be honest I'm beginning to feel that the Supreme Court over the past few years has been more and more in line with public opinion. If you've got a public opinion the Filipinos are the most appreciative of America's role in the international community,” said Heydarian.

For Heydarian, it is totally understandable. Especially that there is growing paranoia over China's aggressive response towards issues on territorial disputes.

Also read: Philippines, United States ‘reinforce alliance’ through EDCA

The Philippines, he said, has to do a lot of catching up in terms of strategic ground. And when you have an "ocean" of goodwill towards the US, EDCA is something that will sit well with majority of Filipinos.

“I think the whole national discourse right now is focused on how do we protect our interests in the Spratlys,” said Heydarian.

More than the issue of whether EDCA should take the form of an executive agreement or a treaty—Heydarian said the question now is how properly and urgently the government would implement it.

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