MANILA (Mabuhay) — Senate President Franklin Drilon on Thursday urged Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs to initiate the revision of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States particularly on the pact’s custody and detention provisions.
Drilon’s call came following the US rejection of the Philippines’ request to have custody over Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is charged with murder in connection with the October 11 killing of Filipino transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude.
Pemberton is currently being held at a US facility inside Camp Aguinaldo “under guard of US military personnel, with perimeter security provided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”
“Sa aking tingin, the Philippines must initiate a request of the review of the Visiting Forces Agreement dahilan na rin sa mga nangyayari na ito at umpisahan po ang negosasyon. Akin pong hinihiling na baguhin itong mga probisyon tungkol sa detention at custody dahilan po iyan ay hindi sang-ayon sa Revised Penal Code, at sa ating Rules of Procedure,” Drilon said a radio interview.
“Siguro, ito ngayon ay isang pagkakataon na kunin ng ating Department of Foreign Affairs upang ipo-propose ang pagreview ng Visiting Forces Agreement,” he added.
Drilon was saddened with the stand of the US as their interpretation of the VFA was very technical and did not take into consideration the appeal of the Laude family.
“Ako po ay nalulungkot sa ganung klaseng posisyon ng Amerika. Masyadong teknikal ang kanilang interpretasyon ng VFA. Wala pong ibang konsiderasyong kung hindi yung tinatawag na letter of the agreement. Talagang strict ang kanilang interpretasyon. Ang hiniling ng pamilya nuong namatay nating kababayan diyan sa Olongapo ay hindi po kinonsider,” he said.
He noted that the Senate cannot initiate the review of the VFA as its duty is to ratify treaties.
“Nasa Senado ang ratipikasyon lang. Hindi po kami ang nagrerevise. Ang aming tungkulin at ang aming kapangyarihan ay ang to ratify or to concur. Ibig sabihin po ang isang tratado ay kailangan po ng concurrence ng Senado. Ngunit ang negotiation at ang kung ano ang laman ng agreement, iyan po ay nasa ehekutibo ng both countries,” he said.
He stressed that it is the executive branch which should take the lead.
“Hindi po pwede umabot sa amin sa Senado iyan nang hindi nirereview at nagu-umpisa sa Malakanyang,” he said.
“Yaan po ay revision ng VFA – kaya dapat po iyan umpisahan or that must be started – ng inisyatibo ng dalawang panig, represented by the Philippine President si Pangulong Aquino at ng Department of Foreign Affairs at nuong State Department ng Amerika,” he explained.
He reiterated that Malacanang and the DFA must now send a note to the US State Department through the US Embassy requesting the review and revision of VFA. (MNS)