‘Terminate VFA if US won’t hand over Pemberton’: Bayan

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Brian Johnson discusses helicopter insert and extract procedures with Philippine soldiers as they prepare for Balikatan 2014 on Fort Magsaysay, Philippines, April 29, 2014. This is the 30th year of the exercise, which provides U.S.-Philippine military training and humanitarian assistance. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Pete Thibodeau

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Brian Johnson discusses helicopter insert and extract procedures with Philippine soldiers as they prepare for Balikatan 2014 on Fort Magsaysay, Philippines, April 29, 2014. This is the 30th year of the exercise, which provides U.S.-Philippine military training and humanitarian assistance. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Pete Thibodeau

MANILA (Mabuhay) – The government should terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement should the United States refuse to hand over US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, the suspect in the killing of transgender Filipino Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, to local authorities, a nationalist group and a lawmaker said Wednesday.

“Any refusal by the United States government to turn over Private Pemberton to Philippine authorities should be considered a ground for terminating the VFA,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.

“The Philippine government must stand its ground and not be pushed around by the US, not when a Filipino was killed and the interest of justice is at stake,” Reyes said.

At the same time, Reyes urged Filipinos to rally round the Laude family who, he said, “are facing an uphill battle for justice.”

In a related development, Gabriela party-list Representative Emmi De Jesus scored President Benigno Aquino III for signing with visiting US Pacific Command chief Samuel Locklear III this week agreements to engage in 426 joint military activities two days after the killing of Laude.

De Jesus said all joint activities and programs between the US and Philippine military should be suspended “until a just and dignified conclusion to all pending complaints, including Laude’s killing, is satisfactorily achieved.”

Gabriela is set to file a resolution mandating the House of Representatives’ defense and foreign affairs committees to initiate moves towards a unilateral termination of the VFA by the Philippines.

The party-list earlier filed a resolution seeking to end the VFA.

Reyes cited studies that showed “the odds do not look good for host countries” in demanding jurisdiction over American military personnel accused of crimes. (MNS)

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