The multi-sectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) has called on the Arroyo administration to to immediately regain custody of convicted rapist L/Cpl. Daniel Smith and to sack Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno.
This call comes on the heels of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling that the agreement between Romulo and US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney, which made possible Smith’s detention at the US Embassy in Manila, was not in accordance with the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
The justices who voted against Smith’s detention at the US Embassy while at the same time affirming the VFA as constitutional were Associate Justices Adolfo Azcuna, Leonardo Quisumbing, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Renato Corona, Dante Tinga, Minita Chico-Nazario, Presbitero Velasco, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, and Arturo Brion.
Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Associate Justice Antonio Carpio filed dissenting opinions declaring the VFA as unconstitutional. They were joined by Associate Justices Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez and Conchita Carpio-Morales.
Meanwhile, Associate Justices Antonio Eduardo Nachura and Diosdado Peralta inhibited themselves.
The Makati City Regional Trial Court, in early December 2006, convicted Smith — a participant in the Balikatan military exercises — of raping a Filipina in Subic, Zambales and ordered his confinement at the Makati CIty Jail pending his imprisonment at the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City. However, on Dec. 29, 2006, he was purportedly transferred to a detention facility at the US Embassy in Manila under what is now known as the Romulo-Kenney Agreement.
“We are vindicated by the decision of the High Court declaring Smith’s current detention as illegal,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes, Jr. “It clearly points out the grave abuse committed by the Arroyo and US governments when they colluded in transferring Smith to a US facility in contempt of the order of Makati RTC Judge (Benjamin) Pozon to confine Smith in the Makati City jail pending transfer to the National Penitentiary.”
“In light of the SC decision, Romulo and Puno should be fired and must no longer be part of any negotiations to get Smith back,” Reyes also said. “The two are directly accountable for placing the Philippines in the humiliating situation of having to negotiate for the custody of rapist convicted by our own courts.”
For her part, Bayan secretary-general Carol Araullo lauded Puno and the three other dissenting justices for taking “the side of national interest”.
Puno, who called the VFA a continuing “slur on our sovereignty”, argued that the VFA has not been ratified as a treaty by the United States and that its provisions are not fully enforceable under US law.
Carpio, meanwhile, argued that in the US Supreme Court ruling on Medellin v. Texas, even if a treaty is recognized as such by the US government, it is not enforceable in the US without legislation unless the treaty is self-executing.
“Justice Puno was correct in pointing out the double-standards that the VFA represents and that the agreement is an affront to our sovereignty,” Araullo said. “Puno along with three other justices courageously took the side of national interest while the majority took the safe route. The Supreme Court missed an opportunity to right a historic wrong when it upheld the VFA as constitutional.”
“The VFA undermines Philippine sovereignty not just in a legal sense but also because it allows the entry and stationing of an unlimited number of foreign troops for an indefinite period of time,” she added. “The violations are not just with the Smith case but also with the yearly military exercises and permanent basing that the US troops have done. These were issues that were not addressed by the Supreme Court in its latest decision.”
The Bayan leaders said that despite the legal setback, their group would press on with its campaign against the VFA and the RP-US military exercises being held in different parts of the country. (Bulatlat.com)