MANILA, Philippines – “I feel as if I have been slapped, or ordered to melt into the wallpaper.”
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago took strong exception to the signing of a military deal between the Philippines and the United States without Senate approval.
Just hours after the ceremony, the chairperson of the Senate foreign affairs committee criticized the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) even before copies are released to lawmakers and the public.
“This is an unfair surprise on the Philippine Senate which, under the Constitution, shares the treaty-making power with the President. All the while, the Committee on Foreign Relations, of which I am chair, expected that any such Agreement would be signed by the two Presidents,” Santiago said in a question-and-answer primer her office released on Monday, April 28.
A constitutional law expert, Santiago reiterated her stand that the deal constituted a treaty, not a mere executive agreement, and requires Senate approval. (READ: Miriam: PH-US military deal needs Senate OK)
She said the signing of the deal was a sign of bad faith and “guile.” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg signed the agreement hours before the arrival of US President Barack Obama in Manila.
“There was no hint that the Agreement has been downgraded, for signature not by the two Presidents, but only by the defense secretary and the American ambassador in Manila. This contretemps does not indicate good faith on the part of the two Presidents,” Santiago said.
“The use of guile in diplomacy should be limited to state-to-state situations, and should not include a situation involving only two branches of the same government.”
Santiago echoed the concern of former senators who voted to close down US bases in 1991: that the deal lacked transparency, and that the Senate should not have been kept in the dark.