Group sees senator's position
one of political convenience not principle
12 August 2008, Quezon, City – Before the scheduled start of the Senate interpellation on the trade issues of the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) last Monday, Senator Mar Roxas gave an impassioned speech on the boiling issue of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that has caused bloodshed in the South. Sen. Roxas condemned the MOA-AD as unconstitutional and described it as an agreement “conceived in secrecy, borne of duplicity, enforced through threat and coercion”.
His vehement opposition on the MOA-AD was not lost on Sen. Jamby Madrigal, when the latter took the floor to interpellate him on his speech. Sen. Madrigal reminded Sen. Roxas that the very observations he expressed against the MOA-AD were the very conditions in which the JPEPA is currently embroiled in and how she wished he expressed the same sentiment on JPEPA as with the MOA-AD.
The Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition (MJJC), a coalition of more than 50 multisectoral groups opposing the uneven trade pact with Japan, took over where Sen. Madrigal left off.
“What is mind boggling is how Sen. Roxas can scream that the MOA-AD is unconstitutional and remain straight faced and defend JPEPA at the same time,” stated the MJJC.
“One can simply be cynical about Mar’s stand and conclude that since the MOA-AD did not make any beneficial trade forecast the good Senator is more than happy to pounce on it. Unlike in JPEPA, which relies on bogus positive trade projections you have the Japanese threatening ODA and direct investment cuts. So even if JPEPA is unconstitutional, he’s happy to accept JPEPA,” explained the MJJC.
The MJJC has for over the past two years revealed that the JPEPA was negotiated in secret with little public consultation. Over the course of the hearings in the Senate in late 2007, it was also revealed that the JPEPA was drafted by a cabal of Japanese and Filipino negotiators with very little accountability to the Filipino people. During these hearings which Senators Roxas and Defensor-Santiago presided over, they were privy to the testimonies of legal luminaries, Retired Supreme Court Justice Florentino P. Feliciano and former University of the Philippines Law School Dean Merlin Magallona that the JPEPA violates the Constitution of the Philippines.
Ret. Justice Feliciano, who is also the former head of the World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body, provided a stinging and critical examination of how the JPEPA gives away to the Japanese sacred Constitutional rights to own land, practice certain professions, operate and administer educational institutions, and own media companies. In his note to the Senate he also explained how JPEPA limits Legislative powers, both at the national and local levels, to enact future laws that could impact JPEPA and how the treaty usurps the Congressional prerogative to set tariff rates, among others.
“Senator Roxas is caught between his two conflicting positions on the Constitution. This is proof that you cannot brandy the Constitution for political convenience. You either apply it evenly in all conditions or you’ll be caught with your foot in your mouth as he was in yesterday’s hearing,” stated the MJJC.
“His only savior now from utter political embarrassment is the side agreement which Japan and the Arroyo administration are concocting to address the constitutional issues,” explained the MJJC. “The reliance on a side agreement for JPEPA is misguided and only serves to gloss over the fundamental flaws of that agreement. Should the MILF enter into a side agreement with the Philippine government addressing the constitutional issues of the MOA-AD, will Sen. Roxas capitulate on his stand as well?”
Josua Mata, Alliance for Progressive Labor / Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition (MJJC), Tel. No. +63 917 794 2431, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org