Secretary of Justice: PH government is reviewing VFA

By Rachel Hermo-Sura, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Oct. 23, 2014

The Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States was signed on May 1999.

But until now, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima says the VFA still has no implementing guidelines, and because of the Jennifer Laude murder case, De Lima confirms the government is already reviewing the agreement – particularly the provisions on the custody of U.S. Servicemen implicated in crimes here in the Philippines.

“Walang implementing guidelines ang VFA,” said De Lima, “so since there are more or less contentious issues there, may mga provisions na hindi malinaw na may medyo magkaiba ang interpretation by the U.S. side and the Philippine side, which is why we need the implementing guidelines.”

As for Joseph Scott Pemberton, the suspect in Laude’s killing, De Lima says the Philippine government will seek his custody once an arrest warrant is issued against him.

“At this point, hindi pa, kasi I’ve been saying this na kahit sa ibang kaso, pag P.I. pa lang di pa natin yan pwede ikulong, kaya lang sya nilagay na sa custody, restricted na sya in anticipation or preparatory for that stage in the proceedings na pwede na siyang ikulong,” said De Lima. “And hindi naman sya pwedeng makaalis because under U.S. military regulations, ang pagkakaintindi ko dyan, hindi nila pinapaalis ang mga ganyan, yung mga nagiging akusado sa cases in a host country, hindi sya, pwedeng paalisin.”

De Lima sympathizes with the Laude family, but she believes storming Camp Aguinaldo was unnecessary.
“Naintindihan ko syempre mga galit yan, because of what happened to their loved one,” said De Lima. “But to go to such extent and may breach of security rin yan. It’s a camp, it’s a military camp, so you do not just barge in and push soldiers, so buti nga yung ating mga pasensyoso. Nag-maximum tolerance.”

De Lima assures the Laude family that Pemberton is still in the country and the Philippine government will fight for his custody.

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