PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Supreme Court yesterday upheld the use of executive privilege by the Executive Department in denying the request of the House of Representatives and some non-government organizations for a full disclosure of the provisions of the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement.
Voting 10-4 with one abstention, the High Court, in a decision penned by Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, said the documents being sought are protected by diplomatic negotiations which constitute an exception to the right to information and the policy of public disclosure.
“Neither the right to information nor the policy of full public disclosure is absolute. The privileged character of diplomatic negotiations has always been recognized. And the petitioners have failed to present a sufficient showing of need to overcome the claim of the privilege,” the tribunal said.
Chief Justice Reynato Puno however disagreed, saying “there can never be a blanket invocation of the privilege and executive officials must give a reason in invoking the diplomatic negotiation privilege.”
Constitutional experts denounced JPEPA for being unconstitutional. Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Florentino Feliciano and former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law Merlin Magallona said the treaty violated constitutional safeguards on national patrimony.
Opposition lawmakers and progressive groups said the accord should not push through because there has been no full public disclosure of its contents.
The two experts said the JPEPA violated the Constitution because it gave the Japanese the right to exploit the country’s marine resources and allows Japanese businesses to own land. The treaty has yet to be ratified by the Senate. JPEPA seeks to remove barriers to trade and facilitate the flow of goods, services, and capital between the Philippines and Japan.
The petitioners are the Akbayan partylist, Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan, Alliance of Progressive Labor, Representatives Mario Joyo Aguja, Loretta Ann Rosales, Ana Theresa Hontiveros-Baraquel , and Emmanuel Joel Villanueva.