Better late than never. This was an entry I was working on on January 6, when I started to get sick. I was in the hospital from Sunday to Thursday (hence no blog for the past week). But this blog is back on duty now.
Saturday’s Inquirer editorial pointed out why the executive was wrong and where Philippine courts have been rather wimpy; the editorial quotes the Court of Appeals which said the VFA is not a “legal shield” for American troops, it is protection for the Philippines from foreign troops; though this is not how most people would understand it or even how the Senate understood it when it ratified the agreement.
Iloilo City Boy has a fascinating entry on public support for the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Senate debates on it prior to its ratification. Personally I believe the American government has been more reasonable -and respectful of Philippine law- than our own executive department has been. As the editorial put it,
As Undersecretary Zosimo Paredes, the often-criticized official responsible for overseeing the Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), correctly said yesterday: The Palace took the law into its own hands. It had previously recognized that the custody issue was within the jurisdiction of the courts by filing the necessary pleadings. By effecting the transfer, stealthily and without a court order, the executive violated the law it was sworn to serve.
Black’s Law Dictionary apparently contains a definition that leads to the interpretation that a legal proceeding doesn’t end with sentencing, but with the appeal:
Any proceeding wherein judicial action is invoked and taken. Any proceeding to obtain such remedy as the law allows. A general term for proceedings relating to, practiced in, or proceeding from a court of justice; or to course prescribed to be taken in various cases from the determination of a controversy or for legal redress or relief.
And yet most Filipinos (including myself) would think otherwise. So it is it a peculiarity of the Philippine justice system? Eloisa Felicio Callender says the US is tempting fate and risking a reversal in our Supreme Court; I’m more inclined to agree with Rasheed Abou-Alsamh: the US is acting within its rights, the Philippines is wiggling out of its obligations, and a lot of heat is being generated, prematurely, in my opinion because two things are lacking: the United States has not spirited the convict permanently away, nor shown signs it would reject a defeat of the appeal; and the country ratified a treaty without insisting the other side view it as such, which is no one’s fault -or lookout- but the Philippines’. What no one wants to say is that on the whole, the VFA is working rather well, and serving the interests of Philippine justice to an extent impossible before.
What I think was utterly wrong was the President’s excuse that Smith had to be transferred so as not to continue displeasing Uncle Sam. That was licking the hand that slapped you. Also, the legal strategy of presenting the courts with a fait accompli, instead of properly petitioning the courts to uphold a particular interpretation.
The Bunker Chronicles proposes a price rollback instead of a wage hike.
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