Militants, gov’t workers join SC fight vs Edca
MANILA, Philippines—Militant labor and government workers on Friday became the third petitioner to challenge the constitutionality of the RP-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) before the Supreme Court.
Seeking to intervene in two petitions questioning the new security agreement between Manila and Washington now pending before the high court are the Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage).
This action brought to three the number of petitions before the high court challenging the new security agreement that would expand American military presence in the country. The other two petitioners include a group led by former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada who 24 years ago fought the removal of US military bases from the Philippines and the leftist party-list group Bayan Muna.
Abuse of discretion
In their 34-page petition, the two groups accused Cabinet officials led by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. of grave abuse of discretion for entering into an agreement that violated certain provisions of the Constitution, including that of providing protection to labor and promoting full employment opportunities.
The petitioners said a provision in Edca allows the United States to contract, solicit or engage workers to perform services.
“Stated otherwise, US forces may prefer to hire non-Filipinos over Filipino workers for services to be rendered in Philippine territory. The only restriction is that such hiring would not violate the laws and regulations of the US,” they said.
This Edca provision showed that Constitutional provisions that aim to promote the welfare of labor and preferential use of Filipino labor had been violated, they said.
The petitioners said the government also violated the country’s taxation laws because a provision in Edca grants tax exemptions to US forces and contractors who are in the Philippines, specifically exempting them from taxes and similar fees for the use of public utilities here, including water and electricity.
“What happens now to the provision of the Philippine Constitution allowing tax exemptions only if there is a law passed with the concurrence of majority of members of Congress?” the petitioners said.
Other Constitutional provisions that were listed as violations of Edca include those pertaining to national sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interest, freedom from nuclear weapons, role of the judiciary in settling disputes, autonomy of local government units and treaties with other countries, especially military treaties.
The other respondents in the petition include Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.
Manila and Washington signed the agreement hours before the arrival in the Philippines of US President Barack Obama, who visited the country last April 28.
The agreement allows US troops to come to the Philippines and have access to selected Philippine military bases. It also allows the US military to preposition warplanes and ships in the country.