THE ISSUE IS JUSTICE, NOT SPECIAL TREATMENT
Recently, what is perhaps the next most significant victory for Philippine sovereignty after the 1991 Philippine Senate decision to dismantle U.S. military bases from the Philippines was achieved through the conviction of a U.S. military serviceman for rape by a Philippine court. This victory was achieved despite the special treatment accorded to the accused by the Philippine-U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement. Thanks to the victim Nicole and her family who refused to be bribed by the accused and their backer, the United States government, the mightiest superpower on earth today. Thanks to the brilliant legal acumen of Nicole’s private prosecutor, Atty. Evalyn Ursua, as well as the victim’s support groups, ranging from civic organizations to women’s organizations from the broad political spectrum. Atty. Ursua, who graduated class valedictorian from the University of the Philippines College of Law, made her alma mater and the U.P. Faculty proud, for this historic legal victory.
We commend the decision of Judge Benjamin Pozon of the Makati Regional Trial Court in upholding the rule of law and the majesty of the Philippine judicial system in giving justice to Nicole, the Subic rape victim. Likewise, Judge Pozon’s decision to assert the jurisdiction of the Philippines over the convicted U.S. soldier, Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, has put to shame the officials of the Philippine Department of Justice, Department of Foreign Affairs and the VFA Commission. These officials, who are siding with the U.S. government’s position that the United States should have custody over the American soldier during the appeals process even after conviction by the trial court, have shamelessly become spokespersons and lawyers for foreign interests .
Now, after conviction by the Philippine Court, the U.S. still wants to expand special treatment for U.S. Lance Corporal Smith who has been staying in a 5-star hotel all throughout the trial, with bodyguards and the luxurious amenities of a foreign diplomat. The U.S. government now threatens to suspend the year-round Balikatan military exercises and the U.S. military assistance that ostensibly go with it. Well and good. Let them eat their words.
The best thing that could happen to the Philippines right now is for the Balikatan war exercises to be scrapped permanently, for the Balikatan has only been used as a smokescreen for U.S. military intervention in the Philippines under the guise of “anti-terrorism training”. They expect the Philippine judicial system and our laws to cave in to this threat. We cannot bargain the wheels of Philippine justice for supposed “goodwill in RP-US relations”, U.S. military intervention and a few crumbs of assistance from the U.S. global anti-terror campaign. This is a question of justice that cannot be compromised.
Let us also take a hard look at the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and work towards its immediate abrogation. The VFA has only been used to give special treatment and extra-territorial rights to U.S. forces committing crimes on Philippine soil and violations of our laws, while engaged in so-called military exercises. This country and most especially its top officials should learn to obey its own Constitution which guarantees “equal protection before the law.” This is what Judge Pozon has taught all of us to assert in our own country.
This is why this country has difficulty in taking the road to progress, national self-determination and national development: its officials would rather protect the interests of powerful foreign interests, rather than the interests of their own people.
Our own Filipino officials are often our own worst enemies.
Charles Bohlen, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines in the 1950s, once told a Filipino audience:
“We in the U.S. Embassy are here to protect American interests. We expect your officials to protect your own interests.”
* Article by Roland G Simbulan – For a full professional background of Professor Roland G. Simbulan (Click Here)