Marcos: US may demand release of American convict if VFA is scrapped
Senator Imee Marcos on Monday said the Philippines could lose custody of US Marines and homicide convict Joseph Scott Pemberton if Manila revokes the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with Washington.
Marcos said the VFA between the two countries gives the Philippines legal jurisdiction over American military personnel who commit crimes under the country’s laws.
“Baka matuwa pa nga ang U.S. pag nawala na ang VFA kasi pwede pa rin naman pumasok ang mga tropang Amerikano sa bansa natin dahil sa Mutual Defense Treaty at EDCA, pero wala nang hawak ang Pilipinas sa mga kasong kriminal kung mangyari man,” she said.
“Kung walang VFA, babalik tayo sa international law at batas ng bansa kung saan galing ang mga tropang dayuhan ang mangingibabaw,” Marcos said.
The US may demand that Pemberton be freed before he could serve his minimum jail sentence, if the VFA is ended before December 2021 or less than six years after his conviction, she said.
Pemberton was sentenced to six to 12 years in prison on December 1, 2015 for the 2014 motel killing of transgender Jennifer Laude.
“Baka makaswerte pa ulit si Pemberton. Wala na nga siya sa ordinaryong kulungan, baka maiklian pa ang kanyang sentensya. Dagdag-sakit para sa pamilya ni Jennifer,” Marcos said.
Pemberton is detained at Camp Aguinaldo under the watch of Philippine and American military personnel and is appealing his conviction on the grounds of self-defense.
Instead of junking the VFA, Marcos said that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) should be ended because it allows the US military “to skirt the constitutional ban on foreign bases in the Philippines and makes the country a potential target of America’s adversaries.”
Amid tensions in the Middle East and the South China Sea, the EDCA binds the country to hosting US military troops and storing their defense equipment, Marcos said.