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  EN BANC [G.R. No. 138570. October 10, 2000]   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.   [G.R. No. 138572. October 10, 2000]   PHILIPPINE CONSTITUTION ASSOCIATION, INC.(PHILCONSA), EXEQUIEL B. GARCIA, AMADOGAT INCIONG, CAMILO L. SABIO, AND RAMON A. GONZALES,  petitioners, vs. HON. RONALDO B. ZAMORA, as Executive Secretary, HON. ORLANDO MERCADO, as Secretary of National Defense, and HON. DOMINGO L. SIAZON, JR., as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, respondents . [G.R. No. 138587. October 10, 2000]    TEOFISTO T. GUINGONA, JR., RAUL S. ROCO, and SERGIO R. OSMEA III,  petitioners, vs. JOSEPH E. ESTRADA, RONALDO B. ZAMORA, DOMINGO L. SIAZON, JR., ORLANDO B. MERCADO, MARCELO B. FERNAN, FRANKLIN M. DRILON, BLAS F. OPLE and RODOLFO G. BIAZON, respondents.   [G.R. No. 138680. October 10, 2000]   INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES, Represented by its National President, Jose Aguila Grapilon,  petitioners, vs. JOSEPH EJERCITO ESTRADA, in his capacity as President, Republic of the Philippines, and HON. DOMINGO SIAZON, in his capacity as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, respondents.   [G.R. No. 138698. October 10, 2000]   JOVITO R. SALONGA, WIGBERTO TAADA, ZENAIDA QUEZON-AVENCEA, ROLANDO SIMBULAN, PABLITO V. SANIDAD, MA. SOCORRO I. DIOKNO, AGAPITO A. AQUINO, JOKER P. ARROYO, FRANCISCO C. RIVERA JR., RENE A.V. SAGUISAG, KILOSBAYAN, MOVEMENT OF ATTORNEYS FOR BROTHERHOOD, INTEGRITY AND NATIONALISM, INC. (MABINI),  petitioners, vs. THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, THE SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, THE SECRETARY OF NATIONAL DEFENSE, SENATE PRESIDENT MARCELO B. FERNAN, SENATOR BLAS F. OPLE, SENATOR RODOLFO G. BIAZON, AND ALL OTHER PERSONS ACTING THEIR CONTROL, SUPERVISION, DIRECTION, AND INSTRUCTION IN RELATION TO THE VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT (VFA), respondents.  D E C I S I O N BUENA, J. :  Confronting the Court for resolution in the instant consolidated petitions for certiorari and prohibition are issues relating to, and borne by, an agreement forged in the turn of the last century between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America -the Visiting Forces Agreement.   The antecedents unfold.   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. To further strengthen their defense and security relationship, the Philippines and the United States entered into a Mutual Defense Treaty on August 30, 1951. Under the treaty, the parties agreed to respond to any external armed attack on their territory, armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft. [1]   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. [2]  With the expiration of the RP-US Military Bases Agreement, the periodic military exercises conducted between the two countries were held in abeyance. Notwithstanding, the defense and security relationship between the Philippines and the United States of America continued pursuant to the Mutual Defense Treaty.   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). Negotiations by both panels on the VFA led to a consolidated draft text, which in turn resulted to a final series of conferences and negotiations [3]  that culminated in Manila on January 12 and 13, 1998. 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 February 10, 1998.   On October 5, 1998, President Joseph E. Estrada, through respondent Secretary of Foreign Affairs, ratified the VFA. [4]   On October 6, 1998, the President, acting through respondent Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora, officially transmitted to the Senate of the Philippines, [5]  the Instrument of Ratification, the letter of the President [6]  and the VFA, for concurrence pursuant to Section 21, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution. The Senate, in turn, referred the VFA to its Committee on Foreign Relations, chaired by Senator Blas F. Ople, and its Committee on National Defense and Security, chaired by Senator Rodolfo G. Biazon, for their joint consideration and  recommendation. Thereafter, joint public hearings were held by the two Committees. [7]   On May 3, 1999, the Committees submitted Proposed Senate Resolution No. 443 [8]  recommending the concurrence of the Senate to the VFA and the creation of a Legislative Oversight Committee to oversee its implementation. Debates then ensued.   On May 27, 1999, Proposed Senate Resolution No. 443 was approved by the Senate, by a two-thirds (2/3) vote [9]  of its members. Senate Resolution No. 443 was then re-numbered as Senate Resolution No. 18. [10]   On June 1, 1999, the VFA officially entered into force after an Exchange of Notes between respondent Secretary Siazon and United States Ambassador Hubbard.   The VFA, which consists of a Preamble and nine (9) Articles, provides for the mechanism for regulating the circumstances and conditions under which US  Armed Forces and defense personnel may be present in the Philippines, and is quoted in its full text, hereunder:   Article I Definitions As used in this Agreement, United States personnel means United States military and civilian personnel temporarily in the Philippines in connection with activities approved by the Philippine Government. Within this definition: 1. The term military personnel refers to military members of the United States  Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard. 2. The term civilian personnel refers to individuals who are neither nationals of, nor ordinary residents in the Philippines and who are employed by the United States armed forces or who are accompanying the United States armed forces, such as employees of the American Red Cross and the United Services Organization. Article II Respect for Law It is the duty of the United States personnel to respect the laws of the Republic of the Philippines and to abstain from any activity inconsistent with the spirit of this agreement, and, in particular, from any political activity in the Philippines. The Government of the United States shall take all measures within its authority to ensure that this is done.
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