Press Release
January 23, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said a review of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States at this time will not be to the countrys advantage as it may even prejudice the rape case against four American servicemen filed by a Filipino woman.

Pimentel said that while he fully agrees with fellow legislators on the need to renegotiate the provisions and terms in the VFA on the issue of criminal jurisdiction over American soldiers which are clearly lopsided in favor of the US and prejudicial to the Philippines, it may not be timely to do so.

It may not be timely to review the VFA while the rape case against the American servicemen is undergoing court litigation. If we will do that, the governments efforts to prosecute and convict the rape suspects may be jeopardized, he said.

Pimentel said that he voted against the ratification of the VFA in 1999 precisely because of its one-sided provisions that would render the Philippines helpless in asserting its rights to take custody of American soldiers accused of committing crimes within its territory.

He said a review and renegotiation of the VFA may give rise to certain legal constraints to pursue the court trial of pending criminal case. He said this may also cause an undue prolongation of the trial beyond the one-year period prescribed under the VFA that may be invoked by the accused and their lawyers to seek a dismissal of the case.

Despite the US governments refusal to turn over the four American servicemen to the Philippines, Pimentel said the government still holds an ace up its sleeves to have the accused servicemen transferred to Philippine jail.

He said the moment the four US soldiers are arraigned before the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court, government prosecutors should ask the court to take custody of the accused.

Ultimately, he said the success of this effort will depend on the determination of the government, through the Department of Justice and Department of Foreign Affairs. He said the government can act whether it wants to uphold Philippine sovereignty or to allow a remnant of a colonial relationship with the US to continue.

Meanwhile, Pimentel brushed aside a suggestion for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to take steps to persuade President George W. Bush to give in to the Philippine request for custody over the American servicemen.

He doubted whether Gloria would be bold enough to make the request. She would not want the US government to surreptitiously undermine her administration.

President Bush is disgusted with Gloria. So I think Gloria would find it difficult to make that request, Pimentel said.

Moreover, he said Bush probably remembers too well the time when President Arroyo suddenly ordered the pullout of the Philippine humanitarian contingent from Iraq as demanded by Iraqi militants who abducted Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz. Washington was outraged when Arroyo declined its plea not to withdraw the Philippine contingent from the Coalition of the willing.

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