Convicted US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton will not to be sent to the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa to serve his jail term since President Aquino has already made it clear that the American soldier is being jailed in Camp Aguinaldo “in a facility controlled by the Philippines”.
This is the belief of Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian who pointed out that the chief executive’s official statement is already policy in itself that will be obeyed and carried out by the president’s men in charge of Pemberton’s detention.
“It is unfortunate that the convicted killer of transgender Jennifer Laude won’t experience harsh prison life in the NBP because the President has already stated Pemberton will be jailed at Camp Aguinaldo in a facility controlled by the Philippines,” said Gatchalian, a majority member of the House Committee on Foreign Relations.
Gatchalian described Aquino’s statement as tantamount to giving “VIP treatment” to Pemberton simply because the convicted American soldier is covered by the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which the Philippine Senate ratified in 1999.
“The facility in the AFP, I think at ISAFP (Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines), is going to be manned by Bureau of Corrections personnel or is already being manned by Bureau of Corrections personnel. In effect, this is an extension of the New Bilibid Prisons and consistent with the agreements under the VFA,” Aquino said in a press conference.
Gatchalian is in favor of abrogating the controversial VFA since the treaty is largely lopsided in favor of the United States especially as regards detention of US personnel accused of crime, like what happened to the Pemberton case.
Gatchalian maintained that the VFA is a “one sided love affair” between the Philippines and the US since it is only the Philippine government that ratified the treaty and the US, while doing nothing, stands to gain the most out of the agreement.
Gatchalian recalled that 10 years ago, Lance Cpl. 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)