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Rene A.V. Saguisag v.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa

G.R. No. 212426 & 212444; January 12, 2016

Ponente: C.J. Sereno

RE: constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement

(EDCA) between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of
America (U.S.).

Petitioners allege that respondents committed grave abuse of discretion amounting

to lack or excess of jurisdiction when they entered into EDCA with the U.S., claiming
that the instrument violated multiple constitutional provisions.

In reply, respondents argue that petitioners lack standing to bring the suit. To
support the legality of their actions, respondents invoke the 1987 Constitution,
treaties, and judicial precedents.

FACTS: The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) is an executive

agreement that gives U.S. troops, planes and ships increased rotational presence in
Philippine military bases and allows the U.S. to build facilities to store fuel and
equipment there. It was signed against the backdrop of the Philippines' maritime
dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.

The US embassy and DFA exchanged diplomatic notes confirming all necessary
requirements for the agreement to take force. The agreement was signed on April
2014. President Benigno Aquino III ratified the same on June 2014. It was not
submitted to Congress on the understanding that to do so was no longer

Petitions for Certiorari were filed before the Supreme Court assailing the
constitutionality of the agreement. Herein petitioners now contend that it should
have been concurred by the senate as it is not an executive agreement. The Senate
issued Senate Resolution No. 105 expressing a strong sense that in order for
EDCA to be valid and binding, it must first be transmitted to the Senate for
deliberation and concurrence.

ISSUE: Whether or not the EDCA between the Philippines and the U.S. is

RULING: YES. The EDCA is an executive agreement and does not need the
Senate's concurrence. As an executive agreement, it remains consistent
with existing laws and treaties that it purports to implement.

Petitioners contend that the EDCA must be in the form of a treaty duly concurred by
Senate. They hinge their argument under the following Constitutional provisions:
 Sec. 21, Art. VII: “No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and
effective unless concurred in by at least 2/3rds of all the Members of the
 Section 25, Article XVIII: “ xxx Military Bases, foreign military bases, troops,
or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty
duly concurred in by the Senate xxx ”
The President, however, may enter into an executive agreement on foreign
military bases, troops, or facilities, if (a) it is not the instrument that allows
the presence of foreign military bases, troops, or facilities; or (b) it merely
aims to implement an existing law or treaty

In Commissioner of Customs v. Eastern Sea Trading: Executive Agreements

are defined as international agreements embodying adjustments of detail carrying
out well-established national policies and traditions and those involving
arrangements of a more or less temporary nature.

Treaties are formal documents which require ratification with the approval of two-
thirds of the Senate. The right of the Executive to enter into binding agreements
without the necessity of subsequent Congressional approval has been confirmed by
long usage.

The Visiting Forces Agreement – a treaty ratified by the Senate in 1999 – already
allowed the return of US troops. EDCA is consistent with the content, purpose, and
framework of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the VFA. The practice of resorting to
executive agreements in adjusting the details of a law or a treaty that already deals
with the presence of foreign military forces is not at all unusual in this jurisdiction.

In order to keep the peace in its archipelago and to sustain itself at the same time
against the destructive forces of nature, the Philippines will need friends. Who they
are, and what form the friendships will take, are for the President to decide. The only
restriction is what the Constitution itself expressly prohibits. EDCA is not
constitutionally infirm. As an executive agreement, it remains consistent with
existing laws and treaties that it purports to implement.

Petition is DISMISSED.


The Philippines and the United States entered into a Mutual Defense Treaty on
August 30, 1951, To further strengthen their defense and security relationship.
Under the treaty, the parties agreed to respond to any external armed attack on
their territory, armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft.

On September 16, 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected the proposed RP-US Treaty
of Friendship, Cooperation and Security which, in effect, would have extended the
presence of US military bases in the Philippines.

On July 18, 1997 RP and US exchanged notes and discussed, among other things,
the possible elements of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).This resulted to a
series of conferences and negotiations which culminated on January 12 and 13,
1998. Thereafter, President Fidel Ramos approved the VFA, which was respectively
signed by Secretary Siazon and United States Ambassador Thomas Hubbard.

On October 5, 1998, President Joseph E. Estrada, through respondent Secretary of

Foreign Affairs, ratified the VFA. On October 6, 1998, the President, acting through
respondent Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora, officially transmitted to the Senate
of the Philippines,the Instrument of Ratification, the letter of the President and the
VFA, for concurrence pursuant to Section 21, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution.

Petitions for certiorari and prohibition, petitioners – as legislators, non-governmental

organizations, citizens and taxpayers – assail the constitutionality of the VFA and
impute to herein respondents grave abuse of discretion in ratifying the agreement.

Petitioner contends, under they provision cited, the “foreign military bases, troops,
or facilities” may be allowed in the Philippines unless the following conditions are
sufficiently met: a) it must be a treaty,
b) it must be duly concurred in by the senate, ratified by a majority of the votes cast
in a national referendum held for that purpose if so required by congress,
and c) recognized as such by the other contracting state.


WAS the VFA unconstitutional?

Section 25, Article XVIII disallows foreign military bases, troops, or facilities in the
country, unless the following conditions are sufficiently met:
(a) it must be under a treaty;
(b) the treaty must be duly concurred in by the Senate and, when so required by
Congress, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national
referendum; and
(c) recognized as a treaty by the other contracting state.

There is no dispute as to the presence of the first two requisites in the case of the
VFA. The concurrence handed by the Senate through Resolution No. 18 is in
accordance with the Constitution, as there were at least 16 Senators that
As to condition (c), the Court held that the phrase “recognized as a treaty” means
that the other contracting party accepts or acknowledges the agreement as a treaty.
To require the US to submit the VFA to the US Senate for concurrence pursuant to its
Constitution, is to accord strict meaning to the phrase. Well-entrenched is the
principle that the words used in the Constitution are to be given their ordinary
meaning except where technical terms are employed, in which case the significance
thus attached to them prevails. Its language should be understood in the sense they
have in common use.

The records reveal that the US Government, through Ambassador Hubbard, has
stated that the US has fully committed to living up to the terms of the VFA. For as
long as the US accepts or acknowledges the VFA as a treaty, and binds itself further
to comply with its treaty obligations, there is indeed compliance with the mandate of
the Constitution.

Worth stressing too, is that the ratification by the President of the VFA, and the
concurrence of the Senate, should be taken as a clear and unequivocal expression of
our nation's consent to be bound by said treaty, with the concomitant duty to uphold
the obligations and responsibilities embodied thereunder. Ratification is generally
held to be an executive act, undertaken by the head of the state, through which the
formal acceptance of the treaty is proclaimed. A State may provide in its domestic
legislation the process of ratification of a treaty. In our jurisdiction, the power to
ratify is vested in the President and not, as commonly believed, in the legislature.
The role of the Senate is limited only to giving or withholding its consent, or
concurrence, to the ratification.

With the ratification of the VFA it now becomes obligatory and incumbent on our
part, under principles of international law (pacta sunt servanda), to be bound by the
terms of the agreement. Thus, no less than Section 2, Article II declares that the
Philippines adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the
law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom,
cooperation and amity with all nations.