‘US can request custody of Marine in transgender slay’

Thursday, October 16th, 2014. Filed under: Philippine News
U.S. (left) and Philippine Navy servicemen launch an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) aboard a patrol boat during a joint annual military exercise called “Carat” at the former U.S. military base Sangley Point in Cavite city, west of Manila June 28, 2013. (MNS photo)

U.S. (left) and Philippine Navy servicemen launch an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) aboard a patrol boat during a joint annual military exercise called “Carat” at the former U.S. military base Sangley Point in Cavite city, west of Manila June 28, 2013. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Philippine government has the primary jurisdiction and custody over United States (US) servicemen who commit violations of Philippine laws, according to an official of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

However, Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano clarified that under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), custody over erring US soldiers is transferred to the US government upon their request.

Article V (Criminal Jurisdiction) Section 1 (a) of the VFA states: “Philippine authorities shall have jurisdiction over United States personnel with respect to offenses committed within the Philippines and punishable under the law of the Philippines.”

Article V (Criminal Jurisdiction) Section 6, meantime, states: “The custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”

On Saturday, 26-year old Jeffrey Laude aka “Jennifer,” a transgender, was murdered inside a lodge in Olongapo City; Laude’s suspected killer is a US marine who is here for the Amphibious Landing Exercise 2015.

Justiniano is not new to cases such as this. He used to defend three US servicemen in the 2005 Subic rape case, including Lance Corporal Daniel Smith. Smith was convicted for the rape of Filipina Suzette Nicolas; Nicolas later recanted her claim.

Dapat talaga yan (custody) sa atin dahil tayo ang may jurisdiction dyan pero nakalagay sa Visiting Forces Agreement pwedeng magrequest ang US government na sa kanila ang custody nung suspect. Ang custody nila is from the commission of the offense until the termination of the judicial proceedings, so kapag nagrequest sila na sila ang may custody eh dapat nating irespeto ang Visiting Forces Agreement.”

Ganyan din nangyari sa Subic rape case – nagrequest din sila (US government) sa Philippine government at iginalang naman natin ang provision ng VFA, tinurnover natin ang custody sa US government,” Justiniano said.

Responding to fears from some quarters that the US serviceman allegedly responsible for Laude’s slay might flee the country, Justiniano said that under the VFA, the US government is bound to present before any proceedings here its servicemen who are charged of any offense.

May obligasyon ang US government na iharap sa anumang investigation o trial, kung kinakailangan, yung suspect o akusado. Malinawag din naman yun, obligasyon nila yun,” Justiniano said.

This is provided for, also, in Article V Section 6 of the VFA, which states: “United States military authorities shall, upon formal notification by the Philippine authorities and without delay, make such personnel available to those authorities in time for any investigative or judicial proceedings relating to the offense with which the person has been charged.”

This obligation of the US, however, is lifted after a period of one year from the time the offense was committed, which is why Justiniano stressed the importance of completing the entire judicial process within the one-year period provided for under the VFA during which the US obligation to make available to Philippine proceedings its erring servicemen is still in effect.

This is also contained in Article V Section 6 of the VFA, which provides that “[i]n the event Philippine judicial proceedings are not completed within one year, the United States shall be relieved of any obligations.”

“The one-year period will not include the time necessary to appeal. Also, the one year period will not include any time during which scheduled trial procedures are delayed because United States authorities, after timely notification by Philippine authorities to arrange for the presence of the accused, fail to do so,” the said provision states.

During the Subic rape case, the trial was conducted four times a week, from 1 o’clock to 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

Justiniano assured the public that the DOJ will treat the case fairly and with utmost impartiality once the complaint is filed. He called on the public to focus on the facts of the case and the evidence in order to fast track its resolution.

Ang sinasabi ko dito, sana huwag na natin lagyan ng kung anu-anong isyu, ifocus na lnag natin sa kung ano ang ebidensya. Kapag ganun lang, wala akong nakikitang magiging problema dito, magiging mabilis ang trial,” he said. (MNS)

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