• Lawmakers file resolution junking VFA

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    JUSTICE FOR JENNIFER Members of militant groups demand justice for the death of transgender Jennifer Laude during a rally in front of the US embassy on Thursday. PHOTO BY RUY MARTINEZ

    JUSTICE FOR JENNIFER Members of militant groups demand justice for the death of transgender Jennifer Laude during a rally in front of the US embassy on Thursday. PHOTO BY RUY MARTINEZ

    FIVE lawmakers at the House of Representatives on Thursday filed a joint resolution that seeks the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

    Party-list Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela and  Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers endorsed Joint Resolution No. 17, which pushes for abrogation of  the VFA and calls on President Benigno Aquino 3rd to send a notice of termination of the pact to the United States of America.

    The Makabayan bloc renewed its call to scrap the agreement after the filing of a murder charge against US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton for the death of Jeffrey Laude.

    The VFA, inked between Manila and Washington in 1999, allows American soldiers to engage in anti-terrorism and disaster preparedness training with their Filipino counterparts. Under its provisions, American servicemen who will be found violating Philippine laws will be tried in the Philippines but the custody will remain with American authorities “from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”

    “It is a big slap on the face of the Filipino nation and downright revolting that the government failed to arrest and take custody of the suspected assailant Pemberton, and that the US authority and custody prevailed over the American suspect of killing a Filipino on Philippine soil. The VFA is an affront to the State’s sovereign power to enforce its laws within its territory and makes a mockery of our justice system,” the lawmakers said.

    “Foreign relations in domestic law are the prerogative of both the President and the Congress. Congress, through its plenary law-making power, and the President through the residual or personal prerogatives. One cannot be compelled by the other but neither will an act have force and effect without the other’s concurrence,” they added.

    “This incident highlights the patently onerous provisions of the VFA that essentially grants immunity from prosecution of US military personnel who commit crimes against Filipinos,” the  lawmakers said.

    They recalled past incidents where US soldiers had run-ins with the law: The rape of Suzette Nicolas in 2005 by Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, the shooting of farmer Buyong-Buyong Isnijal in Tuburan, Basilan, in 2002 involving American soldier Reggie Lane, the shooting of Arsid Baharon in Barangay San Roque, Zamboanga City, on June 21, 2004 by an American soldier whose identity US authorities have withheld, among others.

    The lawmakers argued that despite the Philippine Senate’s ratification in 1999, the VFA is not valid and is unconstitutional since it is not recognized and ratified as a treaty by the US as a contracting State as required by its Constitution.

    “In the 15 years that the VFA has been in place, the country’s sovereignty and national interest have been undermined in favor of US strategic economic and politico-military interests in the country and the Asia-Pacific region,” their resolution read.

    But the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the VFA ensures Philippine jurisdiction over Pemberton.

    Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said the department respects the right of the lawmakers to file a joint resolution for the abrogation of the VFA.

    “But we should bear in mind that without VFA, we won’t even have jurisdiction over this case,” he added.

    Article V Paragraph I of the VFA states, “Philippine authorities shall have jurisdiction over United States personnel with respect to offenses committed within the Philippines and punishable under the law of the Philippines.”

    Based on that provision, Pemberton will be tried in Philippine courts under Philippine laws.

    Jose explained that without the VFA, Smith may not have been convicted in the Philippines because he was already inside a US ship when the crime was reported to authorities.

    He said the DFA will formally ask for custody of Pemberton through a diplomatic note once a warrant of arrest has been issued by the court where the soldier was charged.

    With Bernice Camille Bauzon

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    5 Comments

    1. the importance of the VFA is not only for our defense and continuous training of our troops but also disaster relief assistance. People are easy to forget. Just think the latest super typhoon that wreck havoc in Leyte. The US send a battle group to aid in the relief and evacuation, medical and feeding of the survivors. Now if there is another super typhoon of similar magnitude or earthquake which we all know will happen again, who are the government and Filipinos call? of course sugar daddy (uncle sam) if the VFA is scrapped then the Philippines has more to lose. so go ahead and shoot yourselves in the foot again.

      • With or without the VFA, The US will always assist with relief efforts. We have been strong allies for many many years. I hope the Marine gets a fair trial. If found guilty he should face his sentence. But the US will always stand by our filipino friends in time of need.

    2. I know what happened, I seen this scenario so many times. the US Marine looking for a one night stand he pick-up this transgender not knowing he’s not she, but he, he was horrified when he discovered that she is he sucking his dick, so because he is also a bit drunk, in an instant he make a move that he will regret for the rest of his life, he choke the transgender, and killed him. You know what happened next, all the lawyer jump immediately to the scene they see a large amount of money involve, they paid the people to rally against United States, but if you give them a passage here in the States, They will jump in a heartbeat. What they don’t realize is that the Chinese love it, Because if United State leave they could Harass Philippines and this Country, You now Philippines has no ball to fight the Chinese, But they are good in claiming the Credit of winning that other do. Do you know most of the politician in the Philippines are Green Card Holder, that’s amazing isn’t it, This politician always against United States, but behind it most of their relative and them are leaving here in USA. Well Money Talk. Just remember this people who rallying against USA and VFA agreement dont know FUCKING things. This people will sell their own people in exchange with a small amount of money, we call them one day millionaire.

    3. I always support the advocacies of the opposition congressmen to stir the government of anomalies, inefficiencies, wrongdoings, etc. But this time them advocating for the junking of the VFA? Sorry but they don’t see the big picture of the VFA as others see it. We may not expect actual help from the Americans when other nations trouble us but the mere presence of the American military here (though may be short term) gives a phsycological effect for other nations to think twice before they belittle us.

      The US marine is still to be tried in court, not yet convicted, could you not wait?

    4. Rosauro Feliciano on

      Feel rest assured the local communists and their mother country China are happy, and now they are starting to make preparation for a big celebration.