ON FOUR U.S. MARINES AS WITNESSES TO JENNIFER LAUDE MURDER CASE
The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice should immediately and without delay get in touch with their counterparts and demand the attendance of the four witnesses.
Such demand is covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which calls not only for Respect for Law but the obligation to make available the US personnel for investigative or judicial proceedings. As worded in Article V, “US 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.”
The VFA clearly states that the Philippines has criminal jurisdiction over US soldiers involved in a crime in the country, and it is a matter of invoking it with speed and conviction. The VFA, undoubtedly, is one sided and as such we must always insist and be vigilant with what is accorded us as a matter of sovereign right in that treaty.
This is incident calls for the Philippine authorities’ and the Filipinos’ righteous indignation to fight for custody of the suspect and demand for the physical availability of the four American witnesses. We cannot just sit idly by and watch while our laws are being subverted. If we cannot defend, protect nor assist our fellow Filipino right here in our own soil, what chilling message do we get out there to our people and especially to those who are outside Philippine soils?
We cannot begrudge the US for acting to protect the interests of its nationals and its interests. Our own officials should also, with the same fervor, do the same.
This is why I continue my call for the review of the VFA for clearer, stronger and stricter stipulations which are mutually beneficial to both parties in every step of the way. /MP