SC made right call on Edca
The Supreme Court made the right call on our Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) with the United States by declaring it an executive agreement. The issue of national security is best left to executive action. The traditional approach of parliamentary action in response to external threats is obsolete.
The time frame within which to react to an invasion is very limited in contemporary wars. To cite recent examples, it took the Soviet Union just an overnight operation to effect regime change in the First Afghan War (1979-1988). The Afghan ruler Nur Muhammad Taraki was replaced by Soviet puppet Babrak Karmal. The Paracels War between China and Vietnam lasted two days—Jan. 19-20, 1974.
The First Gulf War (Aug. 2, 1990) is the classic example of how modern war develops. Saddam Hussein overran Kuwait in 48 hours. Had Saudi Arabia been a democratic country and followed the democratic practice of using a parliamentary response to external threat, Saddam Hussein would have overrun Saudi Arabia as well. Its parliament would have had no time to assemble. As it happened, the Saudis simply invited the coalition forces to establish bases all over their country.
Our President should have a similar option in response to an invasion. If the Edca were a treaty, all changes to its coverage will require ratification by the Senate. As we shall note later, this is a nonstarter in our time.
The other compelling reason we should take Congress out of the equation is this: We are not prepared to fight a modern war. We do not have doomsday havens, where our government can operate in wartime. The superpowers have built bunkers in the deep recesses of the earth, so that only a precise nuclear strike can take them down.
In the past, wars were initiated by one camp going after an opposing army and destroying the same. The opening salvos of war are now directed at taking down the communications and command centers of the opponent, before going after its armed forces. This was the pattern used in the First Gulf War. The air campaign took out the communications and command structure of Saddam Hussein; the subsequent ground operations became a walkover for the coalition.
If the Edca were a treaty, the scenario would have been: A hostile force attacks us, and we need to open numerous military bases in the country not covered by the agreement. The Senate (part of our command structure) must assemble to confirm the amendments. How many of the 13 senators who wanted the Edca considered as a treaty will show up at the Senate session hall knowing that the same could be blown up at any moment by a smart bomb? Ironically, based on his past actions, Sen. Antonio Trillanes, the lone dissenter among the senators on the Edca issue, may be the only one courageous enough to show up at the Senate building on the fateful day. I leave to the readers’ imagination what the 13 senators who advocated otherwise would do under the circumstances.
The other issue here is the evident contradictory stance of our leftists opposing the Edca. On one hand, they want a quick response from the United States in case of aggression against us. However, they insist that our agreements must be in the form of treaties. All treaties—and, thus, all amendments thereto—will have to be confirmed by the US Senate. This is not the formula for a quick response, more so when the incumbent in Washington and the US Senate belong to different parties, as is the case now. The contradictory approach to this matter by our leftists leads to the conclusion that they have a hidden agenda and that their concern is not the survival of our democratic way of life.
Having said all that, I think it is time we revised the provision in our Constitution prohibiting nuclear weapons in Philippine territory. In due course, China will convert the artificial islands it has constructed in the West Philippine Sea into military bases. If China installs nuclear-tipped missiles on these islands, we cannot invite America to install nuclear weapons to counter the threat. The worst part is, even if at some later time we can afford to build nuclear weapons, such an act is prohibited under our Constitution, under Art. II, Sec. 8. (If we continue to expand our GDP at 7 percent per year, in 20 years it will quadruple, and we can afford to build nuclear weapons—an attainable goal.)
This provision is a case of unilateral disarmament, a hare-brained scheme in international relations. Living in our present world community is not like living in Forbes Park; it is more like living in the worst part of Tondo. If you do not arm yourself, it is inevitable that at some point you will get mugged. And that is what China has been doing to us. Unless we arm ourselves, the mugging will even escalate.
It is time we discarded this absurd provision in our Constitution. It is a built-in self-destruct mechanism that will make us the 19th province of China. But its decision on the Edca is a job well done by our Supreme Court. It is designed to secure our national survival and hopefully, our people will regard it as such, fully support it, and ignore the rants of the leftists who are out to replace our democratic society with one run by a monolithic Communist Party.
Hermenegildo C. Cruz served as Philippine ambassador to the United Nations in 1984-86.
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