Aquino did not raise Laude slay case, VFA with Obama during Asean
NAY PYI TAW, Burma—Saying it was not “earth-shattering” enough for top-level talks, President Benigno Aquino III said he saw no need to take up with US President Barack Obama the renewed concern over the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) after a murder case involving a visiting US serviceman.
The President said he in fact saw no pressing matter to raise with Obama despite the opportunity for brief exchanges in the sidelines of the just-concluded 25th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit earlier in the week in Beijing, China.
The President said he had very brief exchanges of about a minute or two with his US counterpart in Beijing.
“There are consistent talks between themselves and our side. So unless there is something really earth-shattering and new, there is no need to talk about whatever matter,” he said.
“I won’t talk about what happened in Subic. That can be handled at the lower level,” added the President during an interview after returning to his hotel late night November 12 (almost 1 a.m. November 13 in Manila) from the gala dinner for the 18 visiting heads of state given by host Myanmar President Thein Sein.
The contentious VFA provision on jurisdiction over erring visiting US servicemen again came to question when transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude was killed allegedly by US Marine Private First Class Scott Pemberton in a motel in Subic, Zambales last October 11.
The VFA provides that the US may request to have custody of an American serviceman tagged in a crime during all judicial proceedings from preliminary investigation, indictment, trial, conviction and appeal. But sensing how delicate the issues of jurisdiction have become, the US Embassy and the Philippine government opted to have the American serviceman detained in a facility in the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Camp Aguinaldo, but secured by American soldiers.
The President said he bumped into Obama several times at the Apec Summit, but he said their meetings were “short, almost in passing.”
Despite the renewed protests, the Philippine government indicated that any review of the VFA would not necessarily result in its amendment.
In a news forum last month, the President himself said he would oppose the abrogation of the agreement that allowed the large-scale presence of American troops for military exercises again since the US military bases were closed down in 1992.
The President considers the VFA an integral part of the Philippines’ national defense strategy.
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