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MY TURN: The Pemberton Issue

U.S. Marines Joseph Pemberton’s unit came to our nation in 2014 for the yearly U.S. Phil. War training. During a r.r. (rest recreation) break, he dated someone in Subic. Enraged, that his date was not a girl he strangled/killed the man in a motel on October 11, 2014.

He was convicted on Dec. 01, 2015 in Olongapo and sentenced to 10 years. In August 2020 Pemberton paid the victim’s family P4,500,000 to settle the civil aspect and filed a motion for an early release based on a judicial process called the “Good Conduct Time Allowance”. On September 1, 2020 the Olongapo court which 5 years earlier convicted Pemberton, granted his early release because of the Good Conduct Time Allowance.

If a Korean kills an Indian in Davao City, our courts will hear the case and if found guilty, will be imprisoned here. In 1946, America gave us independence. In 1976 our nation entered into a 99 year lease contract with the USA over thousands of hectares of land. (Clark air base, Subic, Sangley naval case, Baguio Camp John Hay) attached as auxiliary document was the Visiting Forces Agreement (V.F.A). The V.F.A says if a U.S military man commits a crime in the Philippines, American military courts will hear the case, not our courts. If guilty, he will serve his sentence in a U.S prison, not in our prison.

From the 1950’s to 80’s, killed (allegedly accidental) during the U.S. Bombing practices in Clark’s Crow Valley target range were negrito scavengers and Olongapo fishermen in Subic waters. The U.S. invoked the V.F.A agreement. Their soldiers/sailors were not arrested/tried by our courts. The suspects were reassigned at once to mainland USA. The V.F.A also says U.S. may allow Philippine Courts to arrest, try and if guilty imprison U.S. soldiers. This was what the USA did in this case. This option can be used only in the USA.

Fearing for Pemberton’s safety if Pemberton will be locked in a real Pilipino prison (not a special room in Camp Aguinaldo), U.S.A settled the civil liability (P 4,500,000) withdrew the appeal from the judgement of conviction and hurriedly filed the motion for early release. I believed the V.F.A is against the Constitution and is immoral. Sec. 21 of Art of our Constitution states “no treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two thirds of all the members of the senate”.

It is the President who signs the treaty. The treaty making power of the President with the concurrence of the Senate in our Constitution is the same as in the American Constitution. However the U.S.A’s President never signed the VFA. The USA Senate never processed/analyzed and endorsed this V.F.A. We looked at the V.F.A as a treaty but the U.S does not. If the US-Phil war games are held in San Diego and a Pilipino soldier rapes a prostitute, the US court will try his case convicted, he will be imprisoned in America.

The V.F.A is unfair because if a US serviceman commits a crime here, he can use the V.F.A, hide behind the US Judicial system and becomes untouchable. If a Pilipino soldier commits a crime in the USA, he cannot use the VFA as a shield but must face the US judicial system. It is like hantak perdigana where Juan says “Kung Hari, Pedro, Panalo ako, pero kung patay, Pedro ikay ang talo.”

The main focus in a criminal case is to reduce the pain, sorrow, loss of the victim/family. The law recognizes the victim/family’s cry for justice, not for revenge. The law concern for the accused is that he gets a fair trial and due process. In a contract both sides can draw, extract demand the same, equal rights and obligations.

In the V.F.A the rights of the parties are not the same. The V.F.A is a very bad example of a one side agreement where good faith, trust, fairness, mutual respect and reciprocity do not exist. O’Fall our Presidents (Roxas 1947, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal, Marcos, Aquino etc.) only Duterte had the guts to suspend the application of the V.F.A Asia mockingly call us Amboy (American boy) and Tuta ng Kano (U.S. Lap dog) and only Duterte publicly said he is in favor of cancelling the V.F.A Senator Jose P. Laurel, Claro M. Recto and Lorenzo Tañada would have applauded Duterte’s pure, unadulterated nationalistic approach! Ato ni Bay!

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