#TalkThursday with Rene Saguisag: PH-US military deal unconstitutional?
MANILA, Philippines – Rappler talks to former Senator Rene Saguisag
On April 28, 2014, hours before the arrival of US President Barack Obama for a state visit to the Philippines, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg signed the Enhanced Defense Agreement (EDCA). The agreement gives US troops greater access to Philippine military facilities and allows the US to construct facilities, upgrade infrastructure, and store defense and disaster preparedness equipment.
In a press conference following the signing, Goldberg said the US does not intend to set up military bases in the Philippines, and that buildings and infrastructure that will be built will become Philippine property. For his part, Gazmin said the deal reflects a maturing relationship between the allies.
Lawmakers have criticized the negotiations for lacking transparency, and questioned the timing of the signing of the defense pact. Senator Miriam Santiago, a constitutional law expert, said the signing of the military deal between the Philippines and the US without Senate approval is a sign of bad faith. Echoing Santiago, former Senator Joker Arroyo said the Philippines got nothing out of the deal.
Former Senators Teofisto Guingona Jr, Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada have joined Santiago and Arroyo in questioning the deal that was signed without the approval of the legislative branch, emphasizing that the deal must be subject to congressional and public scrutiny.
Malacañang and the Senate defense committee argue that the deal fully abides by the Constitution, and does not require Senate approval as it merely implements past treaties.
The EDCA was made public a day after it was signed. On April 30, Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the government is prepared to defend the deal in court. He also said the Philippines will benefit through better military equipment and humanitarian assistance on disaster response.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, chairman of the Senate defense committee, also defended the agreement, calling it a security blanket for the Philippines. He said critics of the military deal cannot put a price tag on security.
Saguisag, a human rights lawyer, will share his thoughts on EDCA and the deal's validity, among others. He will also talk about the significance of such a deal at a time of growing tension in the region over disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Watch the interview.