DND Chief: VFA flwed but shouldn’t be scrapped yet
By Joel Guinto
MANILA, Philippines — The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States may contain a “mistake,” but it is not yet time to review or abrogate the pact despite the row over custody of convicted rapist Daniel Smith, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said Monday.
Teodoro said that similar military pacts the defense department is negotiating with other countries, like Australia, it is clear that Manila would have custody of foreign forces convicted of crimes by local courts.
“Maliwanag ang custody sa atin, maliwanag na maliwanag [It is clear that we will have custody, it is very, very clear], because we learned precisely from our mistakes or from our perceived gaps in the former VFA [with the US]. But then again, this is not a reason to abrogate a validly existing agreement,” he said.
Last week, the Supreme Court nullified an agreement signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and US Ambassador Kristie Kenney that paved the way for the detention of Smith, a Marine lance corporal found guilty of raping a Filipina at the Subic Bay Freeport, at the American embassy.
Teodoro said that, because the VFA is a bilateral agreement, the US must first agree to a review of the pact before it can be abrogated.
“Precisely, it’s an agreement, and it’s a lesson also for all of us once we enter into an agreement, [that] we cannot just walk away because we don’t like it after it was agreed upon,” he told reporters in Malacañang on the sidelines of the oath-taking of newly-promoted generals and other senior government officials.
“We have to comply with its terms in good faith. Maybe sometime, when we have a longer period to let it work and to iron out any and all kinks under that, then probably both countries have to agree to a review,” he said.
Teodoro added that the Philippines and the US have to “explore ways and means to increase cooperation as treaty partners” under the VFA.
Even if the VFA were renegotiated now, Teodoro said it could not be applied to Smith.
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