THE Senate will be “out of the picture” in the procedure to abrogate the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States.
Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III stressed this point amid the reported plan of President Rodrigo Duterte to nullify the EDCA which was signed on April 28, 2014 by US Ambassador Philip Goldberg and then Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
The Supreme Court re-affirmed last July 27 its ruling dated Jan. 12, 2016 upholding the legality of EDCA.
The Senate did not ratify the EDCA because the Aquino administration treated it merely as an “executive agreement.” The late former Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago had insisted that EDCA should pass through ratification of the upper chamber.
Asked whether the Senate will have any participation in the planned abrogation of EDCA, Pimentel said: “My opinion is wala nang participation ang Senate.”
“Sa system natin ngayon in a unitary system of government, the President is the chief diplomat, the executive branch takes charge of foreign relations,” said Pimentel in a chance interview.
He said that the way to terminate the formal agreement is found in the agreement. “So sundin lang po natin ‘yung procedure dun. I think if there would be a notice, the notice would come from the Executive branch (of government) because in charge ang Executive branch sa foreign relations especially military agreement.”
“The notice will come from the Executive branch, DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs), DND (Department of National Defense), or even the President kasi s’ya naman ang head ng executive branch and the effectivity of the notice of termination would come years after, I don’t know if months or years, after the notice,” he said.
“Kaya nga sa ating Charter change initiative p’wede natin ayusin ito to give more power to a new Senate to be more involved in policy or foreign relations. But sa ngayon we have to stick to the 1987 Constitution, foreign relations is the domain of the executive branch, the participation of the Senate is only to concur in the ratification of treaties already ratified by the Executive branch,” he said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, on the other hand, said that it will be difficult to abrogate EDCA “unilaterally” because it is a signed agreement.
“Kasi ito mga signed agreement ito. Mahirap bastang i-abrogate natin unilaterally unless there’s a proviso ina-allow ang unilateral abrogation. It’s worth looking into the provisions of EDCA and even our Mutual Defense Treaty with the US. Kasi doon naka-root ‘yan,” said Lacson.