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VFA has ‘force of treaty’ for US — envoy

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Joel Guinto, Maila Ager
INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) has the “force of treaty” for the United States and legal experts are “carefully” studying the Philippine Supreme Court’s order to return an American marine convicted of rape to Philippine custody, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said.

“We referred this to Washington. It has the force of treaty to us, so our treaty experts in Washington need to look at it and as soon as they tell us what next steps are, we’ll let you know,” Kenney told reporters on the sidelines of a summit of the League of Cities in Mandaluyong City on Wednesday.

“They’re examining this carefully. This is an important issue. It has the force of treaty for us,” she said.

Kenney refused to comment on Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita’s statement that the US Embassy in Manila and the Department of Foreign Affairs have begun talks on the custody of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith.

She also evaded questions on calls to abrogate the VFA, which guides the conduct of American military forces in the country.

“I think freedom of opinion and expression is a hallmark of both the Philippines and America,” she said.

While it upheld the constitutionality of the VFA, the Supreme Court nullified an agreement between Kenney and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo that allowed for Smith’s transfer from the Makati City jail to the US Embassy grounds in Manila.

Smith was convicted in December 2006 of raping a Filipina, identified in court only as Nicole, in the former Subic Naval base in Olongapo City last November 2005.

Three other US Marines, who allegedly egged Smith on during the rape, Staff Sergeant Chad Carpentier and Lance Corporals Keith Silkwood and Dominique Duplantis were acquitted but were tried before a court martial in the US military.

Asked by reporters whether US officials will be arriving to discuss the issue, Kenney reiterated that the American legal experts would still be deciding the matter and that they “haven’t shared the next step to us. So they are examining this carefully. This is an important issue.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2009-02-18T06:42:11+00:00UTC02bUTCWed, 18 Feb 2009 06:42:11 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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