The record of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the U.S. government reveals that she will not likely support any legal action against five U.S. Marines who are accused of gang-raping a Filipino woman on Nov. 1.
The record of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the U.S. government reveals that she will not likely support any legal action against five U.S. Marines who are accused of gang- raping a Filipino woman on Nov. 1. To avoid another irritant with the U.S. government, Macapagal-Arroyo has allowed other officials most especially her foreign secretary for a reaction. Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo has vowed to bring justice to the case.
But all this may just be for show and cannot hide the fact that the President, who continues to face calls for her removal from office, has always stood by the side of the U.S. – even at the expense of her own officials.
Then Vice President Teofisto Guingona was forced to resign his concurrent post as foreign secretary sometime 2002 over irreconcilable policy differences with Macapagal-Arroyo with regards the VFA and the “Balikatan” war exercises between Philippine and U.S. forces. Macapagal-Arroyo then appointed the pro-American Blas Ople to replace Guingona.
Elmer Cato and lawyer Amado Valdes, two executive directors of the VFA monitoring commission, which is under the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), were sacked one after the other. Cato had warned about many violations committed by visiting U.S. forces against the VFA while Valdez had insisted on prosecuting three drunken U.S. soldiers who rammed their vehicle at an electric post and a variety store in Zamboanga City in 2003.
In exchange for the Philippines being given the status of a major non-NATO ally, Macapagal-Arroyo signed an immunity agreement with U.S. President George W. Bush, Jr. in 2003 protecting U.S. forces in the Philippines from prosecution under the International Criminal Court (ICC) Treaty.
Not one prosecuted
So far since the VFA took effect in 1999, none of the several U.S. soldiers who were accused of committing offenses resulting in the death or injury of a number of Filipino civilians have been prosecuted. This is because either the suspects were spirited away by their own military superiors or Philippine foreign affairs and justice authorities appeared to lack any seriousness in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The reported rape of a 22-year-old Filipino woman in Subic may suffer the same fate. The woman, a college graduate and not a sex worker, was allegedly raped by five U.S. Marines. (A witness earlier said there were six involved, namely, Keith Silkwood, Daniel Smith, Albert Lara, Dominic Duplantis, Corey Barris and Chad Carpenter.)
Although a criminal complaint has been filed with the Olongapo prosecutor’s office, the rape suspects remain under the custody of the U.S. Embassy. The alleged offense was committed not “in the performance of official duty” and was well within Philippine law. This should give the regional trial court in Olongapo exclusive jurisdiction over the case. Under the VFA, however, this jurisdiction does not confer on the Philippine government the right to keep the accused in its custody. Any complaint filed against the suspects should be heard within one year and while this is pending, the U.S. soldiers remain in U.S. custody. If the case is not concluded in one year, the accused can be sent back to the U.S.
With the VFA tilted in favor of the U.S. and Macapagal-Arroyo being on record as fully subservient to U.S. military interests even if – as progressive groups would put it – these are clearly unconstitutional and an infringement on the country’s sovereignty, the new Olongapo rape case will most likely become another victim of a whitewash. To forget everything and keep security ties between the Philippines and the U.S. in good shape, an amicable settlement might be forced upon the rape victim.
In the Philippines and in many other countries where there are U.S. forces and facilities, it is a rarity that a crime committed by the armed personnel of the world’s only superpower is litigated successfully in favor of the victim. Macapagal-Arroyo will just be courting the ire of the U.S. if she pursues the Olongapo case to the end especially at this time when she needs its continued support as her regime continues to crumble.
How can one possibly expect a President who is accused of major crimes ranging from electoral fraud to politically-motivated killings to uphold Philippine laws? (Bulatlat.com)