Archive for December, 2006

Subic Rape Case: Round 1 Victory

Posted in Governance with tags , , on December 4, 2006 by Ruffy Biazon

Justice has been served for Nicole and the rest of the accused with the verdict of Makati City Regional Trial Court judge Benjamin Pozon. With the “guilty” verdict slapped against Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, it is proven that our justice system works, and that anyone who violates the law will be meted out the appropriate punishment.

But this can also be seen as a “first-round” victory, with the issue of where Lance Corporal Smith will serve his penal term the next round to be fought. Under Article V, Section 10 of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which says, “The confinement or detention by Philippine authorities of United States personnel shall be carried out in facilities agreed on by appropriate Philippine and United States authorities. United States personnel serving sentences in the Philippines shall have the right to visits and material assistance”.

It can be said that the Guilty verdict served justice to Nicole personally. But justice to the Filipino people will be attained if the guilty party is imprisoned in the same facility as any ordinary Filipino would be detained if he is convicted of the same crime. If Juan Dela Cruz will be incarcerated in the Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa if he is convicted of rape, then Daniel Smith should serve time in the Bilibid for his crime of rape.

In the aftermath of the conclusion of this trial, it is appropriate for the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement (LOVFA) to meet once again and discuss a possible review of the VFA in order to come up with proposals to the Executive Department on how to refine the agreement to address the concerns brought about by the Subic Rape Case.

One issue is the matter of custody of the accused while undergoing trial. The Philippines should have a stronger position in acquiring custody of the accused. Under the present provisions of the VFA custody of US personnel who have violated Philippine laws immediately reside with the United States. Immediate custody should be with the Philippines with the United States having the option to request for custody to be transferred to them.

Another is the issue of detention particularly after conviction. Those who have committed violations of Philippine laws should have equal treatment. If a Filipino convict goes to the National Penitentiary, then so should any foreigner who violates our laws. What we only need to guarantee to the Americans is the safeguarding of their citizens’ human rights.