A veteran lawmaker representing a district in Valenzuela City expresses support for the abolition of Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), saying the treaty is largely lopsided in favor of the United States especially as regards detention of US personnel accused of crime.
Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian feared that American interest will again prevail at the cost of a Filipino’s life and the country’s dignity as charges were filed against US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton for the murder of Filipino transgender woman, Jennifer Laude.
“This is an opportunity for the government to prove its loyalty to the Filipino people by abolishing the VFA and by making sure that the accused will be placed under the jurisdiction of Philippine laws,” Gatchalian said.
Currently detained in Camp Aguinaldo under US jurisdiction and custody during the pendency of the judicial proceedings as per Section 6, Article V of the VFA, Pemberton is the principal suspect for the murder of Laude, who was found dead in a motel in Olongapo City.
Gatchalian, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, described the VFA as a “one-sided love affair” between the Philippines and the US since it is only the Philippine government, which ratified the treaty and the US, while doing nothing, stands to gain most out of the agreement.
“It is like an American national promising to marry his Filipina girlfriend on the condition that the Filipina help him pay his debt in the US. And after everything has been settled, the American will tell his Filipina bride to forget about the wedding and they just live as common-law spouses,” Gatchalian said.
“This is clearly a one-sided love affair since the Filipina is willing to do everything to show her love while her American boyfriend takes everything for granted,” he explained.
Gatchalian recalled that nine years ago, Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was convicted of rape by the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) and was briefly detained at the Makati City Jail but was transferred to the US Embassy in Manila after the Romulo-Kennedy Agreements.
The Romulo-Kennedy Agreements were later declared by the Supreme Court not in accordance with Sec. 10 of the VFA, which states that Philippine authorities will take charge of the convict’s confinement.
The Court of Appeals reversed the RTC decision in 2009, acquitting Smith who immediately left the country.
“The people cried for justice when local leaders allowed the US to violate VFA provisions to serve their own interest. This time the government must serve the interest of its own people by abrogating the lopsided VFA,” Gatchalian said. (R. Burgos)