Groups Slam Upholding of Secrecy on JPEPA


In its decision, the Supreme Court (SC) recently upheld the secrecy of the negotiations on the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

An anti-JPEPA coalition and an environmental group said the decision sets a dangerous precedent on future economic agreements entered into by the Philippine government.

BY BULATLAT
Volume VIII, No. 24, July 20-26, 2008

In its decision, the Supreme Court (SC) recently upheld the secrecy of the negotiations on the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

Penned by Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, the decision said that the respondents’ claim of executive privilege is valid. It states, “Diplomatic negotiations have been recognized as privileged…the reasons proffered by the petitioners against the application of this ruling has not persuaded the Court.”

Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno dissented with the majority, arguing that the public’s right to information is more important amid controversies surrounding the JPEPA. Associate Justices Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Alicia Austria-Martinez and Adolfo S. Azcuna agreed with the chief justice.

Dangerous precedent

In a statement, the NO DEAL! Movement said that the SC ruling sets a dangerous precedent on future economic pacts that the Philippines will enter into.

The NO DEAL! said, “This will embolden the executive branch to enter into more trade and investment agreements and make commitments without due regard to their harsh effects on various sectors, especially the poor and marginalized.”

The Philippines has pending negotiations with the European Union (EU), the United States, China for economic pacts.

It added, “In effect, the SC is legitimizing the marginalization of ordinary Filipinos from having access to pertinent information on economic treaties such as the JPEPA that will have a deep impact on their interest and livelihood, said the anti-JPEPA coalition.”

The group maintained that diplomatic concerns should be secondary only to the ‘paramount concerns of the people about their interest and livelihood and of the country’s national patrimony and sovereignty.’

Right to know

The NO DEAL! also deemed that SC ruling undermined the fundamental right of the people to know the “compromises” that the executive department is making on their behalf.  “Many of the questionable and controversial provisions of the JPEPA stemmed precisely from the lack of transparency and prior consultation with the concerned sectors,” the coalition noted.

In a statement, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (KPNE), also a member of the NO DEAL!, branded the ruling as a sheer mockery of Philippine democracy, patrimony and sovereignty.

The group was among the first to oppose the JPEPA.

Bautista said, “If the bilateral trade is as good as its proponents claim it is, why the secrecy and lack of transparency? And why would the people believe and trust the very institutions and people who have a notorious record for selling the country’s patrimony and sovereignty.”

Déjà vu

The KPNE said that the recent ruling is reminiscent of the SC decision upholding the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995.

On December 1, 2004, the High Court reversed its earlier decision and declared all provisions o the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 as constitutional.

Bautista lashed out at the government’s reasons for pushing for the ratification of the JPEPA. He said the government also said that mining is the answer to the country’s economic crisis.

Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of KPNE, said, “More than a decade has passed but the act has yet to deliver its promise of sustainable mining and huge economic gains.  What we have witnessed are countless tragedies and human rights violations in mining areas like Marinduque, Rapu Rapu Island and Nueva Vizcaya basically because of the ‘executive privilege’ that is supposedly exercised on behalf of the Filipino people.”

KPNE said that in spite of increase in mining production and income, its contribution to national economy remains insignificant. The mining sector’s contribution to country’s gross domestic product in 2007 is $1.77 or just 1.2 percent.

Bautista said, “The SC ruling is close to asking the Filipinos to trust that the current administration will act with the interest of the Filipinos at heart. Not only is this ironic, it is downright insulting.” Bulatlat

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