Supreme Court upholds constitutionality of EDCA

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Filipino and U.S. soldiers in a joint military exercise

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) – The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday (January 12) junked the two petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States.

Ten SC justices voted that EDCA is constitutional, and only four voted against it, while one inhibited.

The high court ruled that EDCA is an executive agreement that does not need Senate concurrence.

It explained that the Constitution allows the president to enter into an executive agreement that allows the presence of foreign troops or facilities as long as the deal carries out an existing law or treaty.

EDCA carries out the provisions of the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement and 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

The SC also said the president's power to enter into executive agreements is "well-recognized and long upheld by the high court."

The majority agreed the president must have broader authority and wider discretion in the conduct of external affairs.

No less than Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno penned the decision, which was concurred by nine other justices.

Those who dissented include Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Marvic Leonen, and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

Being the former solicitor general, Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza took no part in the decision.

Government, US embassy welcome SC decision

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomed the ruling of the high court, saying "the decision bodes well for deepening our defense cooperation with a key ally."

"As part of our shared goals with the U.S. under this agreement, we look forward to further enhancing interoperability, addressing short-term capability gaps, promoting long term modernization of our forces, helping maintain maritime security and maritime domain awareness, and human assistance and disaster relief (HADR) capabilities," the statement from the AFP added.

Malacañang also welcomed the decision of the SC.

"This ruling boosts the on-going AFP modernization program and paves the way for upgrading our military equipment and capability for national defense as well as for humanitarian assistance and disaster response," said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma.

The U.S. Embassy for its part said that "the EDCA is a mutually beneficial agreement that will enhance our ability to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and help build capacity for the Armed Forces of the Philippines."

Critics: ‘Sad day for Philippine sovereignty’

While proponents of EDCA rejoiced over the SC decision, critics said that today is a "sad day for Philippine sovereignty."

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) said it will consider filing a motion for reconsideration before the high court.

"We shall immediately consult with our lawyers regarding a possible motion for reconsideration, especially since the SC vote was not unanimous. We shall continue to expose and oppose U.S. military intervention in the Philippines," said BAYAN Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr.

"The Filipino people must now resolutely oppose the return of U.S. bases and all the social ills associated with these bases," added Reyes.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.