Palace to go ‘very slow’ on Smith case
Negotiating convict’s detention a ‘long process’
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang will go “very slow” on the case of convicted American rapist Daniel Smith until the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the US embassy “renegotiate” an agreement on his detention so as not to strain its ties with Washington, a Palace official said.
Interior Secretary Rolando Puno also said negotiations for a new detention facility for US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, who has been detained in his country’s embassy, would be a “long process.”
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that Smith, who was found guilty of raping a Filipina, should be returned to Philippine custody and nullified an agreement signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and US Ambassador Kristie Kenney for his detention at the American embassy in Manila.
But the court upheld the constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which governs the conduct of American military forces in the country, and said both countries could negotiate where Smith is to be jailed.
“If we start making statements about where the custodial places will be, we are already prejudging the process of renegotiation,” Puno told reporters in Malacañang. “We don’t want to do that because it will unduly affect the atmosphere of friendship we have with the United States and of the VFA so we have to go very slow on this and not get ahead of ourselves.”
Puno said “the status quo remains” until Romulo and Kenney come up with a new agreement.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita issued a similar statement: “Pending completion of the negotiations, the status quo shall be observed in accordance with the decision the Supreme Court itself.”
On the other hand, deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez gave assurance that the executive branch would comply with the high court ruling.
“The important thins is we will go by the Supreme Court ruling…We will do everything we can to make sure that the Supreme Court ruling will be followed,” he told a news conference at the Palace.
“We have to understand where we are in all of this so we don’t get ahead of ourselves; renegotiating the agreement is, first, a long process, if it even begins,” Puno said.
“I don’t think we should jump the gun. Let’s not get ourselves upset or excited about this because the first step is the portion of the Supreme Court decision…asking the Department of Foreign Affairs to renegotiate this. Barring that, there can be no change in the situation,” he said.
In 2007, the annual Balikatan war games between US and Filipino forces was delayed, and later scaled down amid the custody battle for Smith.
In December 2006, a Makati City court found Smith guilty of raping a Filipina, identified in court only as Nicole, at the former Subic Naval base in November 2005.
Three other US servicemen were acquitted — Staff Sergeant Chad Carpentier, and Lance Corporals Dominique Duplantis and Keith Silkwood. They allegedly cheered Smith on as he raped Nicole at the back of a rented van.
Smith was detained at the Makati City jail following his conviction but was soon after spirited out and transferred to the US embassy by Philippine authorities.
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