VISAYAS LAWYERS SAY NO TO JPEPA
Cites Unconstitutionality of the Treaty as Basis for Rejection
Oct. 23, 2007. Cebu City . Visayas lawyers submitted a petition to the Senate today strongly urging “the Upper House to reject JPEPA in its entirety and cast a NO VOTE, for and on behalf of all present and future generations [of Filipinos].” In their petition, the lawyers characterized the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) as unconstitutional. The petition was developed by participating lawyers at the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Seminar on October 19, 2007 in Cebu City.
“The Constitution is the fundamental covenant between the State and the Filipino people. We as lawyers have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution. We cannot remain silent to what we see as a blatant attack against this hallowed covenant,” explained Gloria Estenzo Ramos, a faculty member of the University of Cebu College of Law, the organizer of the MCLE Seminar.
The lawyers referred to the Senate hearing on the constitutionality of the JPEPA, wherein two Constitutional and international law experts retired Supreme Court Justice Florentino Feliciano and former University of the Philippines College of Law Dean, Professor Merlin Magallona, assailed the JPEPA on several key Constitutional grounds. Among the points raised by retired Justice Feliciano was that the JPEPA unduly extended national treatment to the Japanese, violating the constitutional requirements of preferential treatment for Filipinos under Art. XII, sec. 2, par 2 of the 1987 Constitution. Prof. Magallona, on the other hand, criticized the JPEPA for reducing the Philippine government to a mere insurance company, guaranteeing Japanese business from even non-State acts.
Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition lead counsel Golda Benjamin and Basel Action Network (Asia-Pacific) director lawyer Richard Gutierrez, were present at the MCLE Program and spoke before the gathered lawyers, deploring the lack of transparency, absence of consultation with the affected sectors, and the visible lack of study and through preparation on the part of the government representatives in the JPEPA negotiations.
“There is a time to listen and there is a time to act. Now is the time to act. We call on our compañeros and compañeras throughout the land to help defend the Constitution,” exclaimed Atty. Ramos. “I repeat our call to our honorable Senators, Vote NO to JPEPA and protect the Filipinos now and future generations.”