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Arthur Lim et.al. vs Executive Secretary

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Arthur Lim et.al. vs Executive Secretary
This case involves a petition for certiorari and prohibition as well as a petition-in-intervention, praying that
respondents be restrained from proceeding with the so-called "Balikatan 02-1" and that after due notice
and hearing, that judgment be rendered issuing a permanent writ of injunction and/or prohibition against
the deployment of U.S. troops in Basilan and Mindanao for being illegal and in violation of the Constitution.
The facts are as follows:
Personnel from the armed forces of the United States of America started arriving in Mindanao to take part,
in conjunction with the Philippine military, in "Balikatan 02-1."
These so-called "Balikatan" exercises are the largest combined training operations involving Filipino and
American troops. In theory, they are a simulation of joint military maneuvers pursuant to the Mutual
Defense Treaty,
1
a bilateral defense agreement entered into by the Philippines and the United States in
1951.
The entry of American troops into Philippine soil is proximately rooted in the international anti-terrorism
campaign declared by President George W. Bush in reaction to the tragic events that occurred on
September 11, 2001.
The holding of "Balikatan 02-1" must be studied in the framework of the treaty antecedents to which the
Philippines bound itself. The first of these is the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT, for brevity). The MDT has
been described as the "core" of the defense relationship between the Philippines and its traditional ally, the
United States. Its aim is to enhance the strategic and technological capabilities of our armed forces
through joint training with its American counterparts; the "Balikatan" is the largest such training exercise
directly supporting the MDT's objectives. It is this treaty to which the VFA adverts and the obligations
thereunder which it seeks to reaffirm.
The lapse of the US-Philippine Bases Agreement in 1992 and the decision not to renew it created a
vacuum in US-Philippine defense relations, that is, until it was replaced by the Visiting Forces Agreement.
The VFA provides the "regulatory mechanism" by which "United States military and civilian personnel [may
visit] temporarily in the Philippines in connection with activities approved by the Philippine Government." It
contains provisions relative to entry and departure of American personnel, driving and vehicle registration,
criminal jurisdiction, claims, importation and exportation, movement of vessels and aircraft, as well as the
duration of the agreement and its termination. It is the VFA which gives continued relevance to the MDT
despite the passage of years. Its primary goal is to facilitate the promotion of optimal cooperation between
American and Philippine military forces in the event of an attack by a common foe.
The first question that should be addressed is whether "Balikatan 02-1" is covered by the Visiting
Forces Agreement.
The VFA permits United States personnel to engage, on an impermanent basis, in "activities," the exact
meaning of which was left undefined. The expression is ambiguous, permitting a wide scope of
undertakings subject only to the approval of the Philippine government.
8
The sole encumbrance placed on
its definition is couched in the negative, in that United States personnel must "abstain from any
activity inconsistent with the spirit of this agreement, and in particular, from any political activity."
9
All other
activities, in other words, are fair game.
We are not left completely unaided, however. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which
contains provisos governing interpretations of international agreements, state:
SECTION 3. INTERPRETATION OF TREATIES
Article 31
General rule of interpretation
1. A treaty shall be interpreted in good faith ill accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to
the tenus of the treaty in their context and in the light of its object and purpose.
2. The context for the purpose of the interpretation of a treaty shall comprise, in addition to the text,
including its preamble and annexes:

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(a) any agreement relating to the treaty which was made between all the parties in
connexion with the conclusion of the treaty;
(b) any instrument which was made by one or more parties in connexion with the
conclusion of the treaty and accepted by the other parties as an instrument related to the
party .
3. There shall be taken into account, together with the context:
(a) any subsequent agreement between the parties regarding the interpretation of the
treaty or the application of its provisions;
(b) any subsequent practice in the application of the treaty which establishes the
agreement of the parties regarding its interpretation;
(c) any relevant rules of international law applicable in the relations between the parties.
4. A special meaning shall be given to a term if it is established that the parties so intended.
Article 32
Supplementary means of interpretation
Recourse may be had to supplementary means of interpretation, including the preparatory work of
the treaty and the circumstances of its conclusion, in order to confirm the meaning resulting from
the application of article 31, or to determine the meaning when the interpretation according to
article 31 :
(a) leaves the meaning ambiguous or obscure; or
(b) leads to a result which is manifestly absurd unreasonable.
It is clear from the foregoing that the cardinal rule of interpretation must involve an examination of the text,
which is presumed to verbalize the parties' intentions. The Convention likewise dictates what may be used
as aids to deduce the meaning of terms, which it refers to as the context of the treaty, as well as other
elements may be taken into account alongside the aforesaid context. As explained by a writer on the
Convention ,
[t]he Commission's proposals (which were adopted virtually without change by the conference and
are now reflected in Articles 31 and 32 of the Convention) were clearly based on the view that the
text of a treaty must be presumed to be the authentic expression of the intentions of the parties; the
Commission accordingly came down firmly in favour of the view that 'the starting point of
interpretation is the elucidation of the meaning of the text, not an investigation ab initio into the
intentions of the parties'. This is not to say that the travauxpreparatoires of a treaty , or the
circumstances of its conclusion, are relegated to a subordinate, and wholly ineffective, role. As
Professor Briggs points out, no rigid temporal prohibition on resort to travaux preparatoires of a
treaty was intended by the use of the phrase 'supplementary means of interpretation' in what is
now Article 32 of the Vienna Convention. The distinction between the general rule of interpretation
and the supplementary means of interpretation is intended rather to ensure that the supplementary
means do not constitute an alternative, autonomous method of interpretation divorced from the
general rule.
10
The Terms of Reference rightly fall within the context of the VFA.
After studied reflection, it appeared farfetched that the ambiguity surrounding the meaning of the
word .'activities" arose from accident. In our view, it was deliberately made that way to give both parties a
certain leeway in negotiation. In this manner, visiting US forces may sojourn in Philippine territory for
purposes other than military. As conceived, the joint exercises may include training on new techniques of
patrol and surveillance to protect the nation's marine resources, sea search-and-rescue operations to
assist vessels in distress, disaster relief operations, civic action projects such as the building of school
houses, medical and humanitarian missions, and the like.
Under these auspices, the VFA gives legitimacy to the current Balikatan exercises. It is only logical to
assume that .'Balikatan 02-1," a "mutual anti- terrorism advising, assisting and training exercise," falls
under the umbrella of sanctioned or allowable activities in the context of the agreement. Both the history
and intent of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the V FA support the conclusion that combat-related activities
-as opposed to combat itself -such as the one subject of the instant petition, are indeed authorized.

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Arthur Lim et.al. vs Executive Secretary This case involves a petition for certiorari and prohibition as well as a petition-in-intervention, praying that respondents be restrained from proceeding with the so-called "Balikatan 02-1" and that after due notice and hearing, that judgment be rendered issuing a permanent writ of injunction and/or prohibition against the deployment of U.S. troops in Basilan and Mindanao for being illegal and in violation of the Constitution. The facts are as follows: Personnel from the armed forces of the United States of America started arriving in Mindanao to take part, in conjunction with the Philippine military, in "Balikatan 02-1." These so-called "Balikatan" exercises are the largest combined training operations involving Filipino and American troops. In theory, they are a simulation of joint military maneuvers pursuant to the Mutual Defense Treaty,1?a bilateral defense agreement entered into by the Philippines and the United States in 1951. The entry of American troops into Philippine soil is proximately rooted in the international anti-terrorism campaign declared by President George W. Bush in reaction to the tragic events that occurred on September 11, 2001. The holding of "Balikatan 02-1" must be studied in the framework of the treaty antecedents to which the Philippines bound itself. The first of these is the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT, for brevity). The MDT has been described as the "core" of the defense relationship between the Philip ...
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