BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan), a Junk VFA Movement, Bishop Tomas Millamena (Iglesia Filipina Independiente), Bishop Elmer Bolocan (United Church of Christ of the Phil.), Dr. Reynaldo Legasca, Md, Kilusang Mambubukid Ng Pilipinas, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Gabriela, Prolabor, and The Public Interest Law Center, petitioners, vs. Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora, Foreign Affairs Secretary Domingo Siazon, Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado, Brig. Gen. Alexander Aguirre, Senate President Marcelo Fernan, Senator Franklin Drilon, Senator Blas Ople, Senator Rodolfo Biazon, And Senator Francisco Tatad, respondents.
Facts: On March 14, 1947, the Philippines and the United States of America forged a Military Bases Agreement which formalized, among others, the use of installations in the Philippine territory by United States military personnel. In view of the impending expiration of the RP-US Military Bases Agreement in 1991, the Philippines and the United States negotiated for a possible extension of the military bases agreement. On September 16, 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected the proposed RP-US Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Security which, in effect, would have extended the presence of US military bases in the Philippines. On July 18, 1997, the United States panel, headed by US Defense Deputy Assistant Secretary for Asia Pacific Kurt Campbell, met with the Philippine panel, headed by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rodolfo Severino Jr., to exchange notes on “the complementing strategic interests of the United States and the Philippines in the Asia-Pacific region.” Both sides discussed, among other things, the possible elements of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA for brevity). Thereafter, then President Fidel V. Ramos approved the VFA, which was respectively signed by public respondent Secretary Siazon and Unites States Ambassador Thomas Hubbard. On October 5, 1998, President Joseph E. Estrada, through respondent Secretary of Foreign Affairs, ratified the VFA. On October 6, 1998, the President, acting through respondent Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora, officially transmitted to the Senate of the Philippines, the Instrument of Ratification, the letter of the President and the VFA, for concurrence pursuant to Section 21, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution
Issues (justiciable controversy): (1) Whether or not petitioners have legal standing as concerned citizens, taxpayers, or legislators to question the constitutionality of the VFA; (2) whether the VFA is governed by the provisions of Section 21, Article VII or of Section 25, Article XVIII of the Constitution; (3) and whether or not the Supreme Court has jurisdiction.
Ruling: (1) No. Petitioners failed to show that they have sustained, or are in danger of sustaining any direct injury as a result of the enforcement of the VFA. As taxpayers, petitioners have not established that the VFA involves the exercise by Congress of its taxing or spending powers. On this point, it bears stressing that a taxpayer’s suit refers to a case where the act complained of directly involves the illegal disbursement of public funds derived from taxation.
(2) Yes.The fact that the President referred the VFA to the Senate under Section 21, Article VII, and that the Senate extended its concurrence under the same provision, is immaterial. For in either case, whether under Section 21, Article VII or Section 25, Article XVIII, the fundamental law is crystalline that the concurrence of the Senate is mandatory to comply with the strict constitutional requirements.
(3) No. In fine, absent any clear showing of grave abuse of discretion on the part of respondents, the Court as the final arbiter of legal controversies and staunch sentinel of the rights of the people is then without power to conduct an incursion and meddle with such affairs purely executive and legislative in character and nature. For the Constitution no less, maps out the distinct boundaries and limits the metes and bounds within which each of the three political branches of government may exercise the powers exclusively and essentially conferred to it by law.