On the Philippine Judge’s Decision to Deny Custody of a Convicted US Marine to the US Embassy

The Alliance for Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines (AJLPP) USA highly commends Judge Benjamin Pozon of Makati City, Philippines for standing firm on his decision not to give the U.S Embassy custody of convicted rapist Cpl. Daniel Smith of the U.S. Marines despite the lap-dog subservience of the US-Arroyo government and its Department of Justice.

In his six-page ruling, Pozon said that after "assiduously taking into consideration" all arguments presented by the lawyers of 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, the lawyers of the private complainant, including Evalyn Ursua and former senator Rene Saguisag, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the VFA Commission, and other concerned parties, he ruled to deny the request to turn over custody of Smith to US authorities.

Pozon, correctly pointed out that the said provision of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) applies only during the "judicial proceedings in the trial court" and no longer applies once a conviction has been issued regardless of a pending appeal. Pozon also explained that under the same provision, the right of US authorities to take custody of Smith was terminated after he was found guilty of raping a woman known as "Nicole" and was sentenced to 40 years in jail.

"While judicial proceedings as a whole include the appeal on the decision of the trial court, the appearance of accused-appellant during appeal is no longer required under the rules of court of the Philippines and thus, there is no more need for continued custody of accused Smith by the US military authorities," he added.

Stand for National Dignity, Sovereignty and Freedom

AJLPP welcomed the ruling and are proud that the judge used his "courage and independence." His brave action puts the Philippine government to shame and in their proper place as lackeys and puppets of a bully government.

The AJLPP also vehemently condemn the high handedness and the imperial arrogance of the US government through its ambassador and its Manila Embassy in trying to order the court and insinuate that the “judge does not understand the VFA.”

The AJLPP is extremely happy that the judge in his decision also noted that “the US embassy is not even the proper facility where Smith should be detained while his case is on appeal. It is provided therein that the confinement or detention of the accused that was convicted of the crime charged should be by ‘Philippine authorities’. Necessarily, the ‘facilities’ referred to therein should be the ones run by Philippine authorities and not by US military authorities or the US Embassy or the United States," the ruling stated.

It added that US Ambassador Kristie Kenney’s agreement with Gonzalez and Zuño, which manifests how both agreed to transfer the US Marine back to the US embassy, are both invalid because the wrong Philippine government officials signed it.

"Under the Administrative Code of 1987, the said function legally belongs to the President of the Philippines or the Secretary of the DFA as her alter ego," the ruling stressed. Moreover, Pozon claims that Gonzalez and Zuño’s agreement with the US is political in nature and the court has no valid reason to decide on it.

What remains now is to ask all patriotic Filipinos to unite and act to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that is the source of all the indignities and violations of our national territory and honor as a people. The United States will always use the onerous and lop-sided VFA to advance their interest against our people and nation.

Truly, it took the courage of a Filipino woman, “Nicole”, who stood up for her dignity as a person to emphasize the unequal relationship between the US and the Philippines. It took another brave Filipino man, a judge, to uphold our sovereignty and the majesty of Philippine laws to make us proud to be on a moral high ground and to stand firm as Filipinos.

It will take the people of the nation to unite the country to continue to stand and fight for its sovereign rights.

AJLPP-USA
Political Secretariat

December 13, 2006

Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A.