Statement issued by the Office of the Chairperson
International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS)
The International League of Peoples’ Struggle views the recent ruling of the Philippine Supreme Court, which upheld with finality the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), as a stark reminder that the Philippines remains a staunch bulwark of US imperialist hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region, and that reactionary pro-US forces remain in control of the main levers of the Philippine state.
The Philippine SC, voting 9-4, upheld its earlier January 2016 decision, which ruled that the EDCA is an executive agreement that merely “operationalizes” the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the US and the Philippines, and therefore does not need Senate concurrence. The SC thus upheld EDCA’s constitutionality and its implementation under the existing VFA, which allows US troops, planes, and ships to establish a rotational but permanent presence, build storage facilities and preposition weapons in military bases in the Philippines.
The most important issue is whether the EDCA as executive agreement can be allowed to violate the constitutional ban on the foreign military forces and bases absent a treaty as required by Sec. 25 Art XVIII of the Constitution. But the SC skirted this issue on technical grounds, by arguing that constitutional restrictions on the entry of foreign troops or facilities refer only to the initial entry—which was already allowed by the 1999 VFA, a mere executive agreement—and that subsequent entries are henceforth allowed such as those defined by the EDCA.
The SC ruling upheld the EDCA on the narrow ground that the president can make executive agreements with foreign governments and that there is therefore no need for Senate process of ratification. The SC has therefore rendered useless and a mere surplusage the treaty requirement under Section 25 of the 1987 Constitution because based on the decision, a mere executive agreement called the VFA and later EDCA under the framework of a 1952 defense treaty has done away with the constitutional demand for a treaty. The SC refused to comprehend that the Constitution, despite the 1952 MDT, required a new treaty for the entry of foreign troops, bases or facilities because of the humiliating and unequal treatment of the Philippines under the US-RP Bases Agreement,
This SC ruling represents a narrow, unpatriotic, and even unconstitutional view. It is an outrageous affront to Philippine sovereignty. It is tantamount to asserting that a peasant woman who is married off to her landlord master after being abducted and raped by him no longer has any legal basis for complaining against further rape and abuse because of marriage. At the same time, it further exposes the utter inequity and illegitimacy of the MDT and VFA as unequal treaties and agreements foisted by the US on the Philippines in the past decades.
The presence US troops, facilities and bases in the country is violative of the Filipino people’s interest because (i) these are magnets of attack as we become legitimate target of the many US enemies worldwide (ii) it results in human rights violations including rape and murder not to mention prostitution that goes with US bases (iii) threat to peace both in the Philippines and the region (iv) we are also vulnerable to nuclear accident and toxic waste contamination, and more importantly (v) violates our sovereignty as thousands of foreign troops roam our country at will.
Patriotic groups led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and former and incumbent legislators had filed a motion for reconsideration against the earlier January 2016 SC decision, arguing that the EDCA is unconstitutional because it did not pass through Senate ratification and violated the constitutional ban on basing foreign military troops or facilities in the country. But the SC rejected their petition, explaining that its “only concern is the legality of EDCA and not its wisdom or folly; their remedy clearly belongs to the executive or legislative branches of government.”
The SC ruling is especially revolting since it was issued on the day US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived to visit the Philippines—a welcoming gift of the native subjects to their foreign master, as it were. The timing is reminiscent of a similar scene in 2014, when the previous Aquino government signed EDCA in time for Obama’s first visit to the country.
The previous Aquino regime and other reactionary pro-US circles have been trying to justify EDCA as an effective Philippine leverage against China, particularly to ensure US support for its assertion of sovereignty over the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea and of its sovereign rights over its Exclusive Economic Zone and Extended Continental Shelf.
But events are proving otherwise. The recent ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration as mandated by UNCLOS can already provide that leverage, if only the Duterte government decides to wield it effectively through a genuinely independent foreign policy. After all, during the two years since it was signed in 2014 EDCA and the US did not provide any succor when China harassed our fisherfolks, built islands thru reclamation, constructed airports and destroyed marine environment in the disputed area.
For the Philippines to invoke the military involvement of the US by allowing it wider access to domestic facilities in the guise of “agreed locations” through EDCA will only further invite more Chinese counter-moves and escalate tensions in the region. It was multilateral initiatives such as the Tribunal case under UNCLOS and diplomatic offensive to gather international support–not EDCA–that gained positive results for the Filipino people.
The ILPS hereby reiterates its long-standing call for the peoples of Asia-Pacific, including the people of the Philippines, to persevere in their struggles to kick out or resist the return of US bases and interventionist forces in the region.
We reiterate our support for the Filipino people in their general efforts to resist the entry and continuing presence of all foreign bases and troops within their national territory. This is in the spirit of asserting the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, especially based on the 1987 constitutional provision that bans the presence of foreign bases and troops.
Now that the Philippine Senate is legally barred by the SC ruling from subjecting EDCA to its treaty-ratifying process (and possible rejection), the Filipino people may shift their political action towards other courses of action. In particular, the ILPS joins Filipino patriotic forces in challenging the Duterte government to terminate the EDCA since it is within his power to do so, and to subject the VFA, MDT, and other unequal military treaties to review. All forces of the ILPS Philippine chapter have committed to heighten their participation in anti-imperialist mass actions in the coming months. ###