Oct 042014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/04/09MANILA864.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA864
2009-04-23 11:08
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO7206
OO RUEHNH
DE RUEHML #0864/01 1131108
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 231108Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3894
INFO RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA IMMEDIATE 0141
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000864

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/14/2019
TAGS: PREL MARR KCRM CASC RP
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINE COURT OF APPEALS ACQUITS U.S. MARINE

REF: MANILA 631 AND PREVIOUS

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney for reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY. More than two years after he was convicted
of rape by a trial court in December 2006, the Philippine
Court of Appeals has acquitted U.S. Marine Lance Corporal
Daniel J. Smith, ending a three-year incident that has
blighted an otherwise strong and productive bilateral
relationship. Following his accuser’s “recantation” March
17, the Appeals Court ruled in a unanimous 71-page decision
issued April 23 that there was insufficient evidence to
support Smith’s conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.
Immediately following the decision, LCpl Smith departed the
Philippines in a military plane under the authority of U.S.
Marine Corps personnel en route to Guam, where he will be
processed according to military administrative procedures.
While the decision ends the legal case against Smith and
establishes his innocence, it will continue to have
repercussions for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), as
there will be a public outcry — every event related to the
case has caused a furor — and the Senate has scheduled
hearings on the Agreement that will provide a forum for
anti-American groups to vent their anger against the only
alleged infraction they have been able to latch on to in the
ten years since the VFA came into effect. Smith’s acquittal
comes as 6,000 U.S. forces participate in Balikatan
exercises, an annual bilateral exercise that provides
humanitarian assistance and promotes military readiness. The
Mission and U.S. military commanders running Balikatan have
alerted these forces to be ready for demonstrations and
potential protests. Mission and Balikatan commanders are
confident that Armed Forces of the Philippines security
personnel will provide strong and capable protection for our
forces. END SUMMARY.

PHILIPPINE APPEALS COURT REVERSES SMITH’S CONVICTION
——————————————— ——-

¶2. (C) In a unanimous 71-page decision issued April 23, the
Philippine Court of Appeals reversed the trial court
decision, ruling that “on reasonable ground, the accused
Lance Corporal Daniel Smith is hereby acquitted of the crime
of rape as alleged . . . he is ordered released immediately
unless held for other lawful case.” Immediately following
the issuance of the decision, LCpl Smith departed the
Philippines in a military plane under the authority of U.S.
Marine Corps personnel en route to Guam, where he will be
processed according to military administrative procedures.

SAFEGUARDING THE VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT
——————————————

¶3. (C) Lance Corporal Smith’s freedom represents the
culmination of a long and difficult political, judicial, and
diplomatic process in which the Mission strictly adhered to
its responsibilities under the Visiting Forces Agreement
(VFA) in an effort to preserve it and be able to conduct
military operations that are fundamental to our strategic
interests. Had the Mission failed to comply with VFA
requirements, there is little doubt that the Philippine
government would have faced overwhelming public and private
pressure to abrogate the VFA, which provides the sole legal
basis for our efforts to combat significant terrorist threats
at their point of origin — thousands of miles from U.S.
shores.

¶4. (C) In spite of the fact that the USG has fully adhered to
the VFA, and Smith is now legally absolved by the Philippine
judicial system, the Philippine government will face strong
pressure to renegotiate — or even abrogate — the Visiting
Forces Agreement. The ever-contentious Chair of the
Philippine Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Miriam
Santiago, has announced her intent to hold public hearings
that will certainly feature vociferous condemnation of the
presence of U.S. forces in the Philippines and angry calls by
more than a dozen leftist organizations for the outright
abrogation of the VFA. Those shrill voices will likely
resonate more loudly than the voice of reason of two or three
government agencies during the hearings. It is imperative
that we recognize that more than a legal case, the accusation
against LCpl Smith struck at the very heart of Philippine
historical animus toward its colonial past and for the last
three years no story — not beheadings in Mindanao, not the
sinking of ferries with scores of people on board, not
corruption scandals involving large amounts of money —
matched the headlines in column inches devoted to the sordid

MANILA 00000864 002 OF 002

details of a case that brought together an inebriated young
Filipina and four U.S. marines.

CLARIFYING THE VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT
—————————————-

¶5. (C) The Smith case has demonstrated that the Visiting
Forces Agreement requires clarification of the custody
provisions. While we maintain the view that we retain
custody until the conclusion of all judicial proceedings, the
Philippine Supreme Court recently ruled that under the VFA
the Philippine government takes custody of U.S. personnel
immediately upon conviction, and ordered the Philippine
government to negotiate without delay with the U.S. on
placing Smith in a Philippine detention facility. The last
three years have clearly shown that it is not a tenable
situation for an accused military member to be kept in
custody on grounds of the U.S. Chancery. The unusual
situation of having a diplomatic facility as a place for
detention should be clarified in future discussions with the
Philippine government.

SECURITY MEASURES, PRESS STATEMENT
———————————-

¶6. (C) Given the intense press and public attention the Smith
case has engendered, Mission requested that the Philippine
National Police increase its presence around the Embassy in
case of demonstrations. Post is prepared for possible vocal
demonstrations at or near the U.S. Embassy with related media
coverage.

¶7. (C) The Mission intends to have a relatively low profile
media stance, and will issue no press statements. Instead,
the Mission will post the following statement on its website:

U.S. Embassy Statement – LCpl Daniel Smith Departure from
Philippines

We have seen the decision of the Court of Appeals acquitting
Daniel Smith and intend to respect that decision. Throughout
this long and difficult case, Daniel Smith remained in
custody at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines in compliance
with the terms of the Visiting Forces Agreement, which
provides the framework for U.S.-Philippine cooperation in
legal cases involving visiting U.S. military personnel.

Following the decision of the Philippine Court of Appeals,
Daniel Smith departed the Philippines under the authority of
United States military officials.

This has been a difficult and emotional case for all
involved, especially their families and loved ones. We hope
that the parties can now move on with their lives.
KENNEY

   

 

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.