By Michaela del Callar
MANILA, Oct. 16 (PNA) — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday defended the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and United States amid calls from lawmakers and militant groups to abrogate it following the killing of a Filipino transgender allegedly by a US Marine in Olongapo City over the weekend.
“Of course we respect their views and they have the right to do it. But we should bear in mind that we won’t even have jurisdiction over this case if not for the VFA,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose told a press briefing.
A joint resolution was filed by the Senate and House of Representatives to abolish the 1998 pact that allows American forces to conduct joint military drills with the Philippine military.
In 2005, Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was charged and later on convicted for the rape of a Filipino woman in the former US military base in Subic Bay, Olongapo. The charges against Smith was dismissed after the victim reversed her testimony.
“If there’s no VFA, Daniel Smith will not be convicted. The reason why he was released was because the victim recanted her testimony and not because the VFA was a failure. It’s working,” Jose said.
After nine years, another US serviceman was implicated in a criminal act in the Philippines. Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton was tagged in the killing of 16-year-old Jeffrey Laude, whose death triggered massive condemnation from rights groups and LGBT community here and abroad.
Jose assured the Philippine government is doing its best to ensure justice for Laude and this includes effort to secure custody of Pemberton, who is being held inside a US military vessel in Subic.
“We are still in the preliminary investigation. We will formally request custody once an arrest warrant is issued by the court,” Jose said. (PNA)