MANILA: A group of left-wing Philippine lawmakers yesterday petitioned the Supreme Court to immediately halt a new defence pact with the United States, saying it was barred by the constitution.
The petition by members of the lower house of Congress was the second legal challenge this week to the pact, and is bound to draw attention to President Benigno Aquino’s battles with the courts.
The courts have blocked many of the government’s reforms since Aquino came to power in 2010, including a landmark law creating a truth commission to examine the wrongdoings of past administrations.
Manila and Washington last month signed a new Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) to allow US forces wider access to local bases and construct facilities to store logistics for maritime security and disaster operations.
Congressmen Neri Colmenares, Antonio Tinio, Terry Ridon, and Luz Ilagan and street activists led by Renato Reyes asked the Supreme Court for a temporary order to restrain implementation of the pact.
“The Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) is a basing agreement that is not allowed under the 1987 Constitution, except under stringent conditions,” the lawmakers said in their petition yesterday.
“EDCA is so grossly lopsided in favour of the US that the secrecy surrounding its negotiations can only be viewed as an attempt to thwart any criticism or even public debate regarding its content.”
On Monday, two former senators, who voted to evict two large American military bases from the Philippines in 1991, had asked the high court to rule that the pact was unconstitutional, alleging the government had failed to uphold and protect the country’s sovereignty and national interests in the agreement.
Aquino said he was not worried by the legal challenges to the military pact with the United States, the Philippines’ oldest ally in the Asia-Pacific region.