VFA critics told: Look at ‘bigger picture’
MANILA, Philippines–Malacañang wants critics to look at the “bigger picture” amid calls to either revisit or abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) following the killing of transgender Filipino Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude allegedly by a US serviceman.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma on Sunday insisted that both Manila and Washington are “united in the goal of giving justice” to Laude, who was found dead in the bathroom of a motel room in Olongapo City on the night of Oct. 11.
“What’s important is for justice to prevail where there is a crime committed,” Coloma said on state-run radio.
Coloma said the killing was part of the “bigger picture” and that the VFA, which left-leaning militant groups want terminated, was “part of the overall national defense strategy of our country.”
“That is the bigger picture [that we should look at] as we identify the particular issues regarding jurisdiction and custody,” he said.
President Aquino ordered the review of the VFA in 2010, particularly the provision stating that the United States would have custody of its personnel “from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”
But the Philippine government can “request” transfer of custody and the United States is obliged to make such personnel “available” to Philippine authorities “in time for any investigative or judicial proceedings relating to the offense with which the person has been charged.”
In 2009, Aquino, then a senator, backed a Senate resolution asking the Arroyo administration to junk the VFA if the United States would not agree to a renegotiation.
Last week, Coloma could not tell what happened during the VFA review that began four years ago. He said the custody issue was “still being addressed because of the new development that has arisen.”
On Sunday, Coloma reiterated that the Philippine government “is determined to get justice” for Laude.
“At present, we are focused on following the processes under the law because … the Republic of the Philippines has jurisdiction over the case and it is our laws that will prevail,” he said.
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