By Perfecto T. Raymundo Jr.
MANILA, Oct. 16 (PNA) — The Supreme Court (SC) is set to conduct oral arguments on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States amid the issue of custody of a U.S. soldier tagged in the killing of a transgender in Olongapo City.
According to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. Aranal Sereno, the SC is set to hold oral arguments on petitions filed by groups led by former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada last May against the EDCA.
However, Sereno declined to disclose the date of the oral arguments.
The Chief Justice made the disclosure at the forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) at the Marco Polo Hotel in Pasig City on Thursday.
The decision to hold the oral arguments was made after the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) Florin Hilbay filed the arguments defending the constitutionality of the EDCA.
Likewise, Sereno also refused to give details on the issue of EDCA because it is now pending before the SC.
The Chief Justice distanced herself to shed light in the legal issues on the custody of Private 1st Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was charged with murder for the death of Jeffrey Laude, alias “Jennifer,” under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
“I cannot say what the VFA says (about the issue on custody) because it is part of the pending case. It will be debated very soon,” Sereno said.
Sereno said that prior to the death of Laude, the SC is already scrutinizing the EDCA and the VFA.
“Even without the recent incident involving the transgender woman, we are already scrutinizing the EDCA,” she said.
In the comment of the OSG, it argued that the EDCA is constitutional and there is no more need to ask the concurrence of the Senate on the issue.
Hilbay pointed out that the EDCA is well within the power of President Benigno S. Aquino III to protect the nation as its commander-in-chief, chief executive and chief architect of foreign policy.
The OSG further argued that the EDCA was just approved to implement and enhance two pre-existing treaties, the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the VFA, so it did not require the concurrence of the Senate. (PNA)