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Gov’t opens talks with US on Smith

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Joel Guinto

MANILA, Philippines — The government has begun negotiations with the United States embassy on the Supreme Court ruling to return to Philippine custody convicted rapist Daniel Smith, a senior Cabinet official said.

Two days after the Supreme Court ordered the transfer of Smith, a Marine lance corporal found guilty of raping a Filipina, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo met with US Ambassador Kristie Kenney to discuss the ruling, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.

While it upheld the constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the high tribunal nullified an agreement between Romulo and Kenney for Smith’s detention at the US embassy compound in Manila.

“Secretary Romulo had met over lunch with Ambassador Kenney and what he got was that they have to await guidance from the [US] State Department… The talks have started,” Ermita told reporters at the Palace.

Ermita said the Supreme Court ruling set into a motion an “automatic review” of the VFA by the departments of justice and foreign affairs, and the Office of the Solicitor General.

However, Ermita bucked calls for the pact’s immediate abrogation.

“In light of the recent Supreme Court decision, definitely there’s an automatic review… Considering there are noises coming from outside about this abrogation, it behooves upon government to take a serious look at it,” he said.

But at the same time, he said, “Whatever the clamor from other sectors, we need to discuss it very seriously. For the moment, our position is that the VFA must continue to be respected.”

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2009-02-17T09:48:53+00:00UTC02bUTCTue, 17 Feb 2009 09:48:53 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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