MANILA, Philippines - There is no guarantee that the United States would come to the aid of the Philippines in case of an external attack despite the long-standing defence partnership signed through several agreements between the two countries.
Associate Justice Antonio Carpio emphasised this on Tuesday and got the government side to concede this point when he grilled acting Solicitor General Florin Hilbay on the second round of oral arguments on the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (Edca).
"I just want you to understand [that] even if we declare Edca constitutional, it does not mean the US will defend us, because there is no such guarantee," Carpio told Hilbay.
Carpio, a staunch defender of Philippine sovereignty as reflected in his position on the country's maritime dispute with China, drew several scenarios of the country coming under attack.
He asked Hilbay of the potential US response given its partnership with the Philippines, including Edca and its mother agreement, the Mutual Defence Treaty (MDT).
Malacañang has been defending Edca as a vital instrument in assuring the country's security in the face of external threats amid the unresolved maritime dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea.
It has repeatedly said the agreement implemented provisions already approved under standing Philippine treaties with the United States: the MDT and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
The Philippines and the United States, while pursuing a strategic defence pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, signed Edca in April, just before the state visit of US President Barack Obama.
The agreement allows US troops to gain greater access to Philippine military camps and bases, to put up facilities and to store defence materiel.
Petitioners against Edca asked the high court to declare the pact unconstitutional for alleged violations of constitutional provisions that barred nuclear weapons and the establishment of foreign military bases in the country without Senate approval.
Those seeking Edca's nullification include former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada (among 12 senators who voted to kick US military bases out of the country in 1991), activists, lawyers, religious leaders and members of the academe.
String of questions
During his turn to interpellate, Carpio asked Hilbay a string of questions: Would the Americans come to our aid if we invoke the MDT? What if China seizes one of our islands?
To which the latter responded: "There is no guarantee about the future. What is important [is that] it entangles the US in the interest of the Philippines. That is good."
Hilbay agreed with Carpio that the Philippines should be self-reliant in its external defence efforts. And while alliances could be tapped, there is no certainty of aid, Hilbay said.
"We need to depend on ourselves. We have to rely on ourselves, but nothing prevents us from taking advantage of our alliances. But there is no guarantee at all," the solicitor general said.
He, however, clarified that he could not speak for the United States nor predict what the partner nation would do: "I am here to defend a particular agreement."