House resolution seeks scrapping of VFA
MANILA, Philippines–A joint resolution has been filed in the House of Representatives to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the United States and the Philippines.
Joint Resolution No. 17, filed by the Makabayan bloc, cites the case of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, who was allegedly killed by Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton in Olongapo City last Saturday.
The resolution, filed by the party-list representatives of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Act Teachers, and Kabataan, called the VFA “one-sided, pro-US and anti-Filipino” and “an affront to the State’s sovereign power to enforce its laws within its territory and makes a mockery of our justice system.”
Pemberton and three other US Marines, who are potential witnesses, are currently being detained on board the USS Peleliu docked at the port of Subic.
“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 the US authority and custody prevailed over the American suspect of killing a Filipino on Philippine soil,” the resolution said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Presidential Commission on the VFA (VFACOM) have both upheld that custody of Pemberton automatically rests with the US in accordance with Article V, Paragraph 6 of the VFA which states:
“The custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”
Retired General Eduardo Oban Jr., VFACOM Executive Director, clarified that the phrase “if they so request” applies only if Philippine authorities were the first to apprehend the suspect.
He said that the Philippines cannot deny such a request from the US.
The same provision states that “in extraordinary cases” the Philippines can “present its position to the US regarding custody, which [it] shall take into full account.”
Foreign Affairs Spokesman Assistance Secretary Charles Jose however clarified that “there is no guarantee they will grant our request.”
The resolution was filed by Bayan Muna Party-list Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate, Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis Party-List, Act Teachers Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, and Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon.
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