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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Is the EDCA invalid because it wasn’t signed by Aquino?

April 2016 PH-US Balikatan Exercise Opening. Photo by Sgt Erik Estrada.
April 2016 PH-US Balikatan Exercise Opening. Photo by Sgt Erik Estrada.

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte questioned the validity of EDCA or the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States in his speech at the Masskara Festival in Bacolod City on Sunday.

The agreement, forged to advance the implementation of the Philippine-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, was signed by former National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for the Philippine government and United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg for the U.S. government.


“May I remind America, itong EDCA, it is an official document, but it was only signed by an aide at si Gazmin. It does not bear the signature of the President of the Republic of the Philippines, Aquino. (applause) Walang pirma si Aquino. Better think twice now because I would be asking you to leave the Philippines altogether… after review of that document and if I find that there is no signature, if you cannot produce a signature bearing the permit to you, mag-conduct conduct kayo rito ng, pati ‘yang war games…”

(Source: RTVM, Watch: 35:41 – 37:41)

FACT: Was the EDCA signed by Aquino? Does the lack of his signature make it invalid?

Not the agreement itself, but the Supreme Court said he ratified it in a separate instrument two months after it was signed by Gazmin.

The EDCA was signed by Gazmin according to the Philippines’ procedure in negotiating and ratifying agreements. A 1997 executive order issued by President Fidel V. Ramos says:

“Prior to any international meeting or negotiation of a treaty or executive agreement, authorization must be secured by the lead agency from the President through the Secretary of Foreign Affairs… In case of negotiations of agreements, changes of national policy or those involving international arrangements of a permanent character entered into in the name of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, the authorization shall be in the form of Full Powers and formal instructions. In cases of other agreements, a written authorization from the President shall be sufficient. (Sec 3, Executive Order 459)

Since Gazmin is the authorized representative of former President Aquino for the EDCA negotiations, the latter’s signature in the agreement is no longer necessary, says former UN Philippine Ambassador Lauro Baja Jr.

According to the executive order, the Philippines government needs to ratify international agreements after they’re signed. The process of ratifying depends on the kind of agreement:

Executive Agreements …The Department of Foreign Affairs, pursuant to the endorsement by the concerned agency, shall transmit the agreements to the President of the Philippines for his ratification. The original signed instrument of ratification shall then be returned to the Department of Foreign Affairs for appropriate action.

Treaties All treaties, regardless of their designation, shall comply with the requirements provided in …(Executive Agreements) of this Section. In addition, the Department of Foreign Affairs shall submit the treaties to the Senate of the Philippines for concurrence in the ratification by the President (Sec. 7, Executive Order 459)

Last July, the Supreme Court upheld its decision declaring EDCA as an executive agreement and not a treaty. Only the President’s ratification is needed to make it binding.

The Philippines is bound to honor the agreement for an initial 10 years. According to former Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, EDCA will “enhance our individual and collective self-defense capabilities, strengthen maritime security and maritime domain awareness, and improve humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capacities.”

Duterte said in his inaugural speech the country “will honor treaties and international obligations.”

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay reiterated this in September in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel:

“He specifically said that. He said this in his inaugural speech, first and foremost. He will respect all treaty agreements or arrangements with any nation, including America, including the EDCA, which the Supreme Court had just held as valid.”

(Source: ABS-CBN News

Signed EDCA:

Executive Order 459:

Philippine Treaty Law and Practice, by J. Eduardo Malaya and Maria Antonina Mendoza-Oblena, published in the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Journal, Vol. 35, No. 1, August 2010, pp. 1 – 17

Statement of Sec. Albert Del Rosario:

Supreme Court decision on G.R. No. 212426 & G.R. No. 212444, Jan. 12, 2016: