AFP welcomes opportunity to defend military exercises with Japan before SC

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday welcome the Supreme Court (SC) order directing ranking military and defense officials to answer a petition seeking to stop joint exercises between the Filipino and Japanese armed and defense forces. The petition was filed by the Alliance of Concern Teachers (ACT) party-list last month.

Named respondents in the petition are President Benigno Aquino 3rd, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., AFP chief-of-staff Lt. Gen Hernando Iriberri and Navy flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Jesus C. Millan.

ACT argued that the respondents committed grave abuse of discretion when they entered into the defense agreements and implemented them through the conduct of joint military drills in Philippine territory with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.

“The Armed Forces, in reaction to the SC directive to explain (the) Philippine-Japan exercises that were recently conducted, (welcomes) the opportunity (as) the Armed Forces is actually appreciative of these kinds of measures to clarify certain activities we conduct with other countries, it’s a legal issue that the Department of of National Defense is well aware of and they are preparing to have the explanation brought to the SC,” AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla said.

“But be that as it may, from the perspective of the Armed Forces and the Philippine Navy, we believe that the exercises were conducted with firm basis on our existing policies and laws which will be clarified thoroughly when we bring this matter up at the SC level during the session,” he added.

Padilla said what is prohibited by the Constitution is the conduct of actual military exercises in Philippine territory without a formal treaty.

He added that the June exercises with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force was done outside Philippine territory. These involved a Japanese Lockheed P-3 “Orion” and Philippine Navy Island patrol aircraft. The drills involved maritime search-and-rescue training which began June 22 and ended on the 24th.