Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition
c/o IDEALS 4th Floor, MB Building
6 Kalayaan Avenue, Quezon City, Philippines
Media Contact: Atty. Golda Benjamin (0917-3141016)
20 July 2008, Quezon City, Philippines. Reeling from the recent Supreme Court decision dismissing the petition for the full public disclosure of the text and negotiating points of the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition(MJJC), warned the public not be taken by the drumbeats of the pro-JPEPA camp over the setback handed by the High Court.
The MJJC, a broad coalition of labor, peasant, fisherfolk, youth, faith, legal, public health, environmental and social justice groups and movements, disapproved of the Supreme Court’s decision as a retreat into the weakening of democratic debate and the people’s fundamental right to
“There are two issues facing us. One is the SC decision that slammed the door on our rights to information, giving the Executive a free pass on negotiating unconstitutional and unconscionable treaties without the public’s knowledge, and second, the propaganda being thrown to once again prop up the discredited JPEPA,” explained Atty. Golda Benjamin, MJJC lead counsel. “The SC did not rule on JPEPA’s merit, so why is the Administration talking as if it’s a done deal already?”
Voting 10-4, majority of the members of the Supreme Court agreed with Malacañang’s defense of executive privilege. The High Court based its dismissal, in part, on the ground that petitioners failed to present a ‘sufficient showing of need’ that the information sought is critical to the performance to their function as members of Congress.
Interviewed after the release of the SC decision, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pronounced that “There will be a lot of opportunities for our exports, for our high-value agriculture which would provide huge income for our farmers”.
“GMA is rehashing the JPEPA soundbites that have been disproven a long-time ago. The claimed benefits from JPEPA are illusory. It’s non-existent. The records of the joint Senate Committee hearing of Foreign Relation and Trade and Commerce last year bear this out,” stated Josua Mata of the Alliance of Progressive Labor. “It is very troublesome that GMA would continue with this tract, knowing fully well that seeming benefits from JPEPA are just conjectures.”
“It is of great shame that in the midst of the crisis facing us today, with continued rise in the price of gasoline, food, and basic services around us, GMA instead of taking decisive steps to get us out of the crisis, continues to flog the carcass of JPEPA as a solution,” continued Mata.
The MJJC also took exception to the claim raised by Tarlac Rep. Jeci Lapus, vice chairman of the House committee on good government and public accountability, “There is no longer legal impediment for the Senate ratification of JPEPA now that the High Tribunal has spoken.”
“Rep. Lapus is clearly mistaken. The SC decision does not touch on the merit of JPEPA. In fact the legal black hole in which the treaty is stuck in is a worry for the administration,” said Atty. Richard Gutierrez of Ban Toxics!. “Not only is JPEPA legally impaired because of the various constitutional infirmities it has, it is also impaired because of the social, economic, and environmental burdens it will heap on the Filipinos.”
The Supreme Court said in its majority opinion that since various NGOs and private citizens have already publicly expressed their views on the JPEPA, "there is no basis for petitioners' claim that access to the Philippine and Japanese offers is essential to the exercise of their right to participate in decision-making."
The High Court, observed the MJJC, has conveniently ignored the fact that the petition was filed back in December 2005, at a time when there was very little information on JPEPA that was publicly available, and there was staunch refusal, even defiance on the part of government negotiators,to disclose the status of negotiations. The flow of information, the Coalition pointed out, only started after the petition had been filed, and is certainly a very recent development.
The petition by Akbayan Citizens Action Party, Alliance of Progressive Labor, Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan and concerned individuals led by lawmakers Lorenzo Tanada III, Mario Joyo Aguja, Loreta Ann Rosales, Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel and Emmanuel Joel Villanueva was filed back in December 2005. At that point, there were apprehensions that the JPEPA would be signed at the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Hong Kong, without being made public. The petition was filed in an effort to prevent it from being signed without full public disclosure being done.