BUT THEY WOULD BE WRONG -- for in every moral and legal sense, Daniel Smith has most certainly NOT lost the "Presumption of Innocence" at this stage in the Philippine Judicial Proceedings against him. The 1987 Bill of Rights in the Philippine Constitution states--
Section 14. (1) No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law. (2) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused: Provided, that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable.EVEN IF THE RTC has already rendered its verdict through Judge Pozon, this is only the first of three Verdicts of Guilt required for a final and executory Sentence of Conviction. The Trial Court's verdict must be concurred in by both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court by verdicts requiring the same quantum of evidence and moral certainty and with greater powers of collegial discernment and deliberation than even at the level of the trial judge. But the common and substantial point of each judicial proceeding--at RTC, CA and SC--is to determine if the Prosecution has testimony and evidence to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Inasmuch as a Decision of the judiciary becomes a part of the law of the land, this proceedure is very similar in spirit and substance as the manner by which a bill becomes a law with the concurrence of both Houses of the Congress. Likewise, every sentence of conviction must be concurred in by the three Courts of the Judiciary-- the RTC, the CA and the SC.
NO JURY SYSTEM IN THE PHILIPPINES In a concrete way, the accused's right to be presumed innocent is manifested by the fact that the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt rests with the Prosecution. Perhaps because there is no jury system in place, and the fate of the criminally accused rests in the hands of appointed Judges, such burden of proof never shifts from the Prosecution to the Defense in all Philippine criminal proceedings. Thus, a final and executory sentence of conviction in a capital case requires three successive verdicts of "Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
THE DEFINITIVE CASE AND PONENCIA on the Presumption of Innocence in the Philippine jurisdiction is said to be that of Associate Justice Enrique M. Fernando, in People v. Dramayo (42 SCRA 59) --
"It is to be admitted that the starting point is the presumption of innocence. So it must be, according to the Constitution. That is a right safeguarded both appellants. Accusation is not, according to the fundamental law, synonymous with guilt. It is incumbent on the prosecution to demonstrate that culpability lies. Appellants were not even called upon then to offer evidence on their behalf. Their freedom is forfeit only if the requisite quantum of proof necessary for conviction be in existence. Their guilt must be shown beyond reasonable doubt. To such a standard this Court has always been committed. There is need, therefore, for the most careful scrutiny of the testimony of the State, both oral and documentary, independently of whatever defense is offered by the accused. Only if the judge below and the appellate tribunal could arrive at a conclusion that the crime had been committed precisely by person on trial under such an exacting test could sentence be one of conviction. It is thus required that every circumstance favoring his innocence be duly taken into account. The proof against him must survive the test of reason; the strongest suspicion must not be permitted to sway judgment. The conscience must be satisfied that on the defendant could be laid the responsibility for the offense charged; that not only did he perpetrate the act but that it amounted to a crime. What is required then is moral certainty. So is has been held from the 1903 decision of United States v. Reyes. United States v. Lasada decided in 1910, yields this excert: 'By reasonable doubt is not meant that which of possibility may arise, but it is that doubt engendered by an investigation of the whole proof and an inability, after such investigation, to let the mind rest easy upon the certainty of guilt. Absolute certainty of guilt is not demanded by the law to convict of any criminal charge but moral certainty is required, and this certainty is required as to every proposition of proof requisite to constitute the offense.'The United States Constitution contains features in its Bill of Rights that are alien to the experience of Filipinos in the Archipelago, but which are taken for granted by U.S. citizens. Noteworthy among these is "trial by a jury of one's peers" and some others...
Fifth Amendment - Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings. Ratified December 15, 1791.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Sixth Amendment - Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses. Ratified December 15, 1791.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Trial by Jury is not used in the Philippine jurisdiction. Instead the fate of criminally accused persons rests in the hands of unelected Judges, who conduct trials much as US Courts do, but minus the Jury. Thus, US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith has been found guilty of rape by Judge Benjamin Pozon of the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC); if affirmed by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, this verdict will become a final and executory "Sentence of Conviction" carrying with it the punishment of life imprisonment (reclusion perpetua).
Under the Visiting Forces Agreement the US Government clearly "surrenders" the normal Constitutional rights of American citizens accused of crimes in the Philippines and agrees that they be tried under Philippine Law. The US recognizes Philippine jurisdiction over such cases, but maintains custody of its personnel until completion of all judicial proceedings under this agreement.
VFA Section 6. 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. 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 in extraordinary cases, the Philippine Government shall present its position to the United States Government regarding custody, which the United States Government shall take into full account. In the event Philippine judicial proceedings are not completed within one year, the United States shall be relieved of any obligations under this paragraph. 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.It is of course easy to ignore the fact that in signing the VFA the United States explicitly recognizes Philippine jurisdiction, to the extent that even the Constitutional right to a JURY trial of its citizens serving under the VFA is apparently surrendered. Such was the case with Daniel Smith, yet we do not have American nationalists tearing their garments crying out for the loss or insult to American sovereignty. In other words, it is most inaccurate to portray the VFA as "one-sided". There is clearly a give and take on these matters.
Isagani Cruz sounds a lot like Renato Constantino in Surrender of Sovereignty -- a column article that could be a classic in the growing genre of victimhood-liberation writings spawned by the Subic Bay Rape Case. Early dominated by clever Lynch Mob instigators like Rina Jimenez David and Conrado de Quiros, the field is being discovered by a broad spectrum of pundits, like blawgers, Rachel Khan and Marichu Lambino, who are producing rich variations on several themes. But here is Isagani Cruz's rendition--
"As regards the question of whether an international agreement may be invalidated by the courts, suffice it to say that the Constitution authorizes the nullification of a treaty not only when it conflicts with the Constitution but also when it runs counter to an act of Congress.”How disingenuous of a former Justice of the Supreme Court now newspaper pundit, Isagani Cruz, not to mention the famous case of Bayan v. Zamora in which the Supreme Court already dealt with the Constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement, affirming the President's ratification of the VFA and the concurrence of the Senate. There is no confusion in the Supreme Court's historic decision on the Constitutionality of the VFA, and no matter how Isagani Cruz and others like him try, they cannot raise even the shadow of a doubt in the minds of Filipinos and Americans of the mutual interest and benefit derived therefrom. Even Nicole herself has to agree that were it not for the Visiting Forces Agreement, her case would probably be in the same state as the estimated 3,000 other Pinays raped by Pinoys since 1 November 2005 -- nowhere.
If the question had been raised, or if raised had been considered by the Court of Appeals, it would have had to follow the above decisions of the Supreme Court. Consequently, it would have upheld the position taken by Judge Pozon in retaining Smith in the custody of Philippine authorities as required by our own laws. That would have honored and enforced our sovereignty, without more.
There would then have been no necessity for the extended opinion written by Justice Apolonio D. Bruselas Jr. that, as it turned out, was all wasted effort because he said in the end that the petition did not have to be decided for having become moot. He had struck mightily with his right arm but surrendered meekly with his left.
The ponencia had been reduced to an academic lesson on how to interpret the law correctly but without antagonizing President Arroyo and her American superiors."