Anti-JPEPA advocates ask RP to renegotiate treaty

Nurses, caregivers, migrant workers against it
By Veronica Uy, INQUIRER.net

The Free Fair Trade Alliance, one of the many non-government organizations against the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), on Thursday asked the government panel to renegotiate the treaty.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chair of the Senate foreign relations committee spearheading the discussions on the bilateral agreement, said the proposal is “a definite option.”

“We can send it back to the President for renegotiation…but, in effect, it would mean a rejection of the executive branch,” she said.

Santiago has asked all interested parties to submit their final written memoranda on the treaty on October 23, then she will write her own summary of the five hearings on the accord, give copies to the other senators, ask for a straw vote, and finally write her final report.

She had earlier said that she may just sit on the treaty and not act on it, but she said that option is not in the Senate rules.

“I am looking at previous Senate practice because it is not mentioned in our Senate rules. But if I’m not allowed to sit on it, that is to say just send it to the archives, then I will be compelled to issue a report recommending renegotiation,” she said.

Santiago also noted that those expected to benefit from the JPEPA were also against the treaty.

“Notice that the senators in the committee where virtually dismayed when even the people who should benefit the most — the nurses, the caregivers, the migrant workers — have issued statements against the treaty when normally one would expect that they would support it. I will say at least that the committee members are flabbergasted, as noted even by the administration public officials,” she said.

Santiago said the next hearing on Monday would tackle the all-important topic of constitutionality of the treaty. She said she has invited former Supreme Court Justice Florentino Feliciano and former University of the Philippines’ College of Law Dean Merlin Magallona to give their opinion on the matter.

“I consider, as a lawyer, that Monday’s hearing will be the most important because it will deal not only on the movement of goods and services but also, and most significantly with the constitutional issues,” she told reporters.

“Suppose the Senate concurs with the treaty, the opposition might, hypothetically, bring a case to the Supreme Court. And suppose we lose it on constitutional grounds. That’s how important the constitutional issue is. It is the most basic of all issues. If it is unconstitutional, then there is no point in debating all the other issues,” Santiago said.

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