Palace to seek clarification of Supreme Court's ruling on Romulo-Kenney agreements
Manila (19 February) -- Malacanang said it will seek clarification with the Supreme Court on its ruling that the Romulo-Kenney Agreements were not in accord with the visiting forces agreement (VFA) between the United States and the Philippines.
In a press statement, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that while Malacanang reiterates its utmost respect for the high court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the VFA, including the provision on Criminal Jurisdiction in Article V, it "is the view of the Executive that the Romulo-Kenney Agreements were very much in accord with Section 6, Article V of the VFA."
The Romulo-Kenney Agreements were signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney.
Ermita said Section 6 of Article V on Criminal Jurisdiction of the VFA states that the "'custody of the United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with the United States military authorities x x x from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.'"
He said this VFA provision on criminal jurisdiction "clearly implies that pending final judgment, custody of the accused shall be with the United States military authorities."
"This is contrasted with Section 10 of the same Article V which talks about the United States personnel serving sentence in the Philippines, in which case the confinement of Philippine authorities of US personnel shall be carried out in facilities agreed upon by appropriate Philippine and United States authorities," he added.
This means, Ermita pointed out, that custody shall rest with the Philippine authorities once the accused starts serving his/her sentence or after a final judgment shall have been rendered.
In the case of US Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, his appeal of his conviction is still pending with the Court of Appeals.
"What is important in all these is that under the VFA, jurisdiction is clearly and unequivocally vested with Philippine authorities at all stages of the proceedings," Ermita said, as he stressed that the executive department will continue to be "guided by the country's best interest, by the provisions of the VFA and by the final ruling of the Supreme Court." (PIA-MMIO) [top]