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Good riddance to a bad deal

We welcome the administration’s decision to terminate the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States.

Good riddance to a bad deal

Ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999, the VFA was inequitable from the start. In fact, because the United States saw this as an executive agreement, the VFA was never approved by the US Senate.

The primary effect of the VFA is that it allows the US government to retain jurisdiction over American military personnel accused of committing crimes in the Philippines unless the crimes are "of particular importance to the Philippines." This means that in most cases, the US can refuse to detain or arrest accused personnel, or may instead prosecute them under US. jurisdiction.

Also under the VFA, local courts have one year to complete any legal proceedings. The agreement also exempts US military personnel from visa and passport regulations in the Philippines.

Since its ratification in 1999, the United States has used the VFA twice to keep American servicemen accused of violating Philippine laws under US jurisdiction.

In 2006, the US military maintained custody of four servicemen accused of rape while visiting Subic Bay. During their trial by a local court, they were held by American officials at the United States Embassy in Manila.

A second Philippine court case under the VFA is the one following the death of Jennifer Laude, also involving a US Navy ship docked at Subic Bay. This case happened after the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement was signed.

In 2014, a 26-year-old Filipino transsexual was beaten and strangled in Olongapo by 19-year-old Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, who had been unaware that Jennifer Laude was transgender.

Pemberton was detained by the US Navy, first onboard his ship and then inside Camp Aguinaldo, the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, located in Quezon City.

He remains detained at a compound in Camp Aguinaldo guarded by Filipino and American security personnel, and not in an ordinary jail as demanded by the victim’s family—and contrary to Philippine law.

All these are reasons enough to terminate a patently inequitable agreement.

It is unfortunate, therefore, that the administration has tied the issue to the cancellation of a Philippine senator’s US visa, which has no logical connection to the privileges granted to American servicemen in the Philippines.

It is also unfortunate that to spite the United States, the President has espoused the dubious view that somehow, unlike the Americans, the Chinese respect our sovereignty.

China may be a key trading partner and even a benefactor—but its bullying in the West Philippine Sea shows no more respect for our sovereignty than do the Americans.

Topics: Visiting Forces Agreement , American military , Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement
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