Friday, February 10, 2006

Angst of the VFA Abrogationists

HY WON'T THE UNITED STATES give up physical custody of four U.S. Marines charged with rape in a Subic Bay criminal case, when the U.S. already recognizes the legal jurisdiction of the Philippines Regional Trial Court in Olongapo City trying the case? (The U.S. has even guaranteed to make the accused available for all Court proceedings while holding them at the US Embassy in Manila.) The simple answer which unfortunately cannot be stated diplomatically enough by any official of the US Government is this -- The Philippine Prison System is not fit for human incarceration of unconvicted defendants, whether they be Filipinos or Americans!

For example, a CNN News World Report aired on February 1 was a second expose in six months of the scandalous and appalling conditions of minor-age children languishing in Philippine prisons. Not that the inhuman conditions in the penal system here are any secret but it certainly seems to have off-balanced Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, whose Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement had loudly called for the abrogation of the VFA on the grounds that the US refusal to surrender the right of custody given to it by the VFA was a "stain on Philippine sovereignty." Though -- surprise, surprise!-- that seems to have changed a bit.

Actually it would be irresponsible for the United States not to invoke the very provision in the VFA that had anticipated this very situation. Contrary to the claims of the anti-VFA forces seeking its abrogation, this is not a sudden discovery, even for Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who signed the VFA herself in 1999. The U.S. obviously insisted on this condition -- Philippine legal jurisdiction, but American physical custody -- when this provision was negotiated, since the U.S. knows full well that -- let me say it again for the shy Uncle Sam -- The Philippine Prison System is not fit for human incarceration of unconvicted defendants, whether they be Filipinos or Americans!

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel made a good observation recently: If those calling for the abrogaton of the 1999 RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement were to have their way, the Subic Bay rape case might lose its legal basis and no justice would then be done. With the rape case used expertly as a stage prop by propaganda experts with a lot of experience at it, the battle for actual physical custody of the US Marines was building up a head of steam that culminated in the vocal volcanic eruptions of Mount Miriam Defensor Santiago calling for abrogaton. Here is a sampler of the other vulcanologists who've been erupting since Day One--
CPP: "...assails the Arroyo regime for its obsequious acceptance of the US government's decision to maintain custody of four US servicemen accused of raping a 22-year old Filipina in November 2005 ... the Arroyo regime surrendered the nation's sovereignty ...condemns the US government's superpower arrogance and complete disdain for the Filipino nation in refusing to hand over the accused servicemen.
PDI elaborates for Joma and Ka Roger in the recent editorial "Unequal Relationship":
"Under the VFA, the Philippines and the United States are not equals. The VFA allows the US to treat the Philippines not as a co-equal, sovereign state but as colony, a vassal state. The agreement perpetuates the master-slave, patron-client relationship that was supposed to have ended when the US restored independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946...The US government's disregard of the Philippine court's warrant of arrest is a clear sign of disrespect for Philippine laws. The Bill Rights of the Philippine Constitution and the Philippine Rules of Court, patterned after those of the United States, give sufficient protection to the accused. There should be no concern that the rights of the Americans accused in the Subic rape case would be violated.
No concern that rights would be violated under Philippine custody?? AHEM!

Scrap the VFA was posted just days after the alleged rape. See if you agree that the blogger finds a reason to be glad that the rape case happened.
What really irks me is what happened during the interval between the signing of the VFA and the rape case. Granted that despite the calls for its rejection, it was, in fact, signed. Was that reason to stop? Where were the anti-VFA advocates then? Why didn't they hang on, called for a review and pushed for the abrogation of the VFA? Had the alleged rape not happened, the fight against the VFA would probably have died forever.
WHY LOSING IS WINNING FOR THE LEFT The Left sees the potential for at least a symbolic victory in every battle such as this, but I suspect they actually relish the thought of defeat at the hands of the evil gringo conquistador superpower because that sets up their favorite role on the stage of this "longest running communist insurgency" of ours--that of the Persecuted Oppressed Nationalist Fighting for the Nation's Sovereignty. I don't expect President Arroyo to do more than game the VFA with the Americans and dicker for her removal from the White House blacklist of unreliable and treacherous foreign politicians. I suspect the Left knows this and is counting on it for the next stage of the anti-American crusade: more street demonstrations in front of the U.S. Embassy; more "historical retrospectives" on Bud Bagsak and the Philippine-American War; more pious invective from the Leftist true believers. Which of course delights the Palace while the rest of us wince in chagrin.

MELANCHOLIA For these protectors of Philippine sovereignty, the abrogation of the VFA is demanded with no consideration for its objective worth in bringing justice to communist and militant Islamist groups that yeah, bring terror to this land of generally peaceful Christians, Muslims and lumads. Our alliance with the United States of America serves the national interests of BOTH countries. I can only guess at the motivations of such people. According to these folks, the bilateral Agreements between the RP and the US, like the Visiting Forces Agreement are really just elaborate ruses whose real objective is not to train together to hunt down the Bali Bombers and Abu Sayyaf terrorists, but to give their imperialist soldiers Rest & Recreation while America reasserts its neocolonial dominance. Seems like a round-about way for Uncle Sam to reconquer the Philippines. Maybe our Leftists are actually just victimes of a terrible and debilitating mental illness-- historical melancholia described by the great Denis William. Brogan --
"There are few greater emotional losses than a grievance that explains why things have gone wrong in terms of another's fault...To get freedom is to lose a grievance, and some nations have firmly refused to give up their darling experience." [The End of Empire in the Saturday Evening Post's Adventures of the Mind, Alfred Knopf, 1960] "
THAT LOG IN OUR EYE: So maybe that CNN World Report broadcast a week ago did everyone a favor by exposing the inhuman conditions in Philippine prisons to a global audience, showing how we most cruelly incarcerate thousands upon thousands of nameless, faceless "children in conflict with the law" and give them no way out of the hell-on-earth into which they have been deposited. It also stunningly exposes the hypocrisy of the Miriam, the Left and other exploiters of a human tragedy for political and ideological purposes. The report was the second time since last August that children in Philippine prisons were shown to a global audience in unspeakable conditions, including being mixed in with adult inmates. (Transcript with Rosemary Church, August, 2005 broadcast). Of course, Secretary Raul Gonzales made it worse by appearing in a CNN interview, only to confirm the world's worst fears about the kind of people who are in charge. The US Government is duty-bound to protect the human and Constitutional rights of those soldiers, even if they have been charged with a heinous crime of rape. If they are convicted as charged, then all bets are off, though I hope they get gentle cellmates. But until then, PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION on behalf of Philippine children caught up in the prisons of the Philippines, which is a labyrinthe of jails within a larger empyrean of corrupt practices that is the legal and judicial system in the Archipelago at the present time.



Hello DJB,

I think you can call Uncle Sam any name but "shy".

And while I believe that "shy" Uncle Sam had the right to invoke the terms of the VFA to protect their servicemen from the squalor of our prisons, the Philippine Senate, equally has the right to re-negotiate the terms and if they are lucky, they just might keep "shy" Uncle Sam's troops on the Philippine soil to play with our AFP when in the course of the re-negotiating the terms, "shy" Uncle Sam growls and tells them to "Shut up!"

I do believe it is silly to do away with VFA (all civilized countries have defence treatises of some kind with their allies) but our 'brilliant' senators led by 'brilliant' (but furiously mad) Miriam could always try to re-negotiate its terms.

Rizalist said...

HB, We certainly have the right to terminate and renegotiate. But what provision would you change. Would you insist on physical custody then? What are the advantages to the PHilippines when it only costs money to feed and maintain in this case 4 big burly Americanos? Why would the US agree to such a thing? What are the principles involved in making such a new demand?


Now, HB, you need to clarify "We certainly have the right to terminate and renegotiate."

From what I've gathered, you are a US citizen just like me; shall "We" speak from a US citizen's point of view or from "We, Filipinos"' point of view.


Either way, there's such a thing as PRINCIPLES and that's what I was thinking of when I said the Philippine Senate could try to re-negotiate the terms as in the Philippines having custody over the accused.

However, up to 'em senators to fight for their principles!

Rizalist said...

I'm all for principles. But what exactly is the principle we should fight for? Me I am a natural born dual citizen of both countries. My loyalties CAN'T be divided. It's all human beings to me. Humanity being the permanent condition for the foreseeable future. Whereas nationshood, I aver, is a phase, like teenagehood.

Still my mind is open. What principle should we fight for in this case?

Equality? Liberty? Fraternity?

What reason do we give for DEMANDING physical custody?


Simple DJB, the accused are accused of having committed a crime on Philippine soil and Philippine authorities could demand custody.

Now, whether they can make their 'custody' plea work is another thing.

It's all a question of MORAL, LEGAL PRINCIPLES that any SOVEREIGN, independent nation should aspire to fight for.

We could go on and on but one thing I can tell you one thing, I am not batting for the Philippines to claim custody of the accused based on time-honored principle of liberty, equality, fraternity... I believe the Philippines is still a trillion miles away from the French state principle of EGALITE, LIBERTE, FRATERNITE. (Just look around Gloria and her cabinet, do you honestly think they even heard of that?)

Would be like asking cave men to use elctricity for cooking rice.

Rizalist said...

You're normally more convincing than this. But why a nation's sovereignty is besmirched by this arrangement escapes me still. Custody will be granted once conviction is achieved in Court. What is sought by not giving custody before conviction is to spare the accused from punishments NOT contemplated even for convicted rapists. It would be an injustice to deliver them up to Philippine custody knowing what they would face. Unless of course you want the Philippines to set up a separate facility just for them. But would such a facility house the larger Bruised Ego that is actually what seeks satisfaction, would it satisfy the Lynch Mobs. And what would happen if, unable to secure them, one were killed or beaten up. What would that do to justice in the rape case. Again, convince me if you have a stronger principle than: Justice.




Whaddyaknow! You've convinced me!

Yeah, let's call it justice!

AmericanPainter said...

DJB: What, in your opinion, are the chances of the soldiers getting a fair trial after all of the rhetoric that has taken place ?

Rizalist said...

AP--Believe it or not I believe they stand a good chance of a fair trial. For one thing they've got good local lawyers whose only agenda is to defend them. The other side has to prosecute them AND deal with "all of the rehetoric that has taken place." Like all high profile cases, even in America, part of the adversarial aspect of "doing Justice" involves various inequalities, strategies and conditions that can never be purified.

What's missing is the US govt and military being able to do more to convince everyone that we are all on the same side of trying to do Justice without trying to do harm to other things.

Where would the court martial investigations or other internal us military inquiries be, do you think?

AmericanPainter said...

DJB: I certainly hope you’re right about the fair trial issue. But what will happen in the Philippines if they are found not guilty?

The anti-American left is so vocal in the Philippines that the U.S. Govt and Military can hardly make a noise without being blown out of the water. I seriously doubt they could convince anyone of anything. Do you think there is something positive they could do?

The Philippine public seems to be unaware of the terrorist presence in the Philippines and/or regards it as someone else's problem.

My best guess is that by now the court martial investigators and all concerned military parties have completed their work. Now they are just waiting to see what transpires in the Philippine trial.

If the Philippine court finds them not guilty they will then still face military court martial.

What is your best guess?

Rizalist said...

Remember there are four men accused. The possibilities range from all guilty as charged to all acquitted. What are the chances of either extreme? Hard to say of course because no one knows what really happened that Holloween night.

But that is what Justice is all about. The tenor of the judge has been reassuring to me and the pace of the proceedings is quick by Philippine standards.

I think as long as the judgment is credible based on the testimony and trial evidence, everyone HAS to accept the results, no matter what.

But like I said, nothing would deflate the lynch mobs faster than the US making certain symbolic moves to demonstrate that it is after Justice too. The whole anti VFA movement rests on the claim that everything the US does is to get the guilty rapists off scott free. You and I know that isn't true, but here the propagandists have many people convinced it is.



I've been batting for a US court martial of the 4 accused - held aboard a US ship on Philippine waters if necessary - because I have faith in the US military justice system (and in western military justice systems altogether), perhaps more than I have in a civilian justice system.

I do believe that a court martial would give both the accused and the victim a venue for a fair trial.

Rizalist said...

Well, I'm pretty sure rapists get caught and punished real good in the United States a lot more than here. And some, who turned out to be innocent are being let go from DNA evidence. So yes, HB, Justice would probably better be served on board a US ship. But then THAT was the other thing we negotiated for in the VFA: JURISDICTION.

Still, if the Justice system could do a good job, it would go a long way...

AmericanPainter said...

rizalist, I hope we'll be able to receive a good play by play during the trial that isn't slanted one way or another. I’m certain that if you have the information, we’ll be able to read a fair assessment here.

I recall the alleged victims lawyer claiming that a one year limitation on concluding a trial was unrealistic in the Philippines. The U.S. Constitution guarantees a speedy trial. The Philippine Constitution being patterned after it should have the same guarantee, but does it?

Certainly one year is long enough for one to have a serious charge hanging over one’s head but in the squalor of a Philippine jail/prison it would seem an eternity. The mere thought of it causes me to shudder and is giving me cause to think about going back home or to another Asian country. What really scares me is that the police beat the van driver into alleging gang rape. If it could happen to them, it could happen to me, I feel very vulnerable and unwanted, being an American in the Philippines. Am I being paranoid?

Rizalist said...

Justice delayed is justice denied!
Justice hurried is justice buried!

blogtrasher said...

the famous filipino pride is the answer why we are asking physical custody!

japan said...

looking for American who served time in philippine prison to talk to reporter about their experience. it's for story about what lance cpl smith could be facing if his appeal is denied. know of anyone?

Rizalist said...

Try getting a hold of Fr. Shay Cullen of PREDA.ORG (you can find him online.) He might know some such unfortunate soul.

shirota strain said...

I have read in an editorial in the Business Mirror that the VFA may be a non-binding treaty as it was not ratified by the US Senate.

Is it true?

I hate asking stupid questions but I do hate being clueless more.

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