Lawyer to govt: Renegotiate VFA
(The Philippine Star) - February 12, 2013 - 11:12am

MANILA, Philippines - An international law expert will ask the Supreme Court  on Tuesday to direct the Aquino administration to renegotiate the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US government after a US Navy minesweeper ran aground in Tubbataha reef last Jan. 17.

Lawyer Harry Roque, Center for International Law chairperson and UP Law professor, will file a motion for the issuance of writ of execution to renegotiate the VFA before the High Court in Manila around 11 a.m.

Roque will be joined by civil society groups in filing the motion.

Roque said the recent grounding of a minesweeper USS Guardian in the UNESCO heritage site Tubbataha national park prompted the filing of the motion for execution.

"As far as we know, the minesweeper had no business and was asked not to enter the national park. We theorized that the US Navy personnel on board may have wanted to engage in scuba diving in the park. That makes their grounding there a 'non-service related' event.

The captain and the men of the minesweeper should have been criminally prosecuted before our local courts. This is an instance where the Court's ruling in Salonga could then apply," Roque said.

In his motion, Roque wants the Philippine government to renegotiate the VFA so that it could also begin the procedure of abrogating the agreement.

"The Tubbataha incident makes it very clear why the VFA is not beneficial to the Philippines. It gives the Americans a pretense to ignore our national sovereignty and destroy our national patrimony.

"Before, the Americans raped only our women. Now, like victorious conquering forces, they are raping our national wealth as well," said Roque, also the Director of the UP Law Center's Institute of International Legal Studies.

"I am not aware of  writ of execution issued by the Supreme Court. Normally, it is a lower court that issues the writ. But there is no prohibition. The Supreme Court as guardian of the Constitution may be looked upon to assert Philippine sovereignty," he added.

Roque was both petitioner and counsel in the case before the SC, questioning the constitutionality of the VFA  owing to  the US's forcibly getting the custody of US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith who was then accused of raping the Filipina "Nicole".

In that petition, while the High Court sustained the constitutionality of the VFA, the petition was nonetheless "partially granted."

The SC also ordered the executive to "renegotiate" the Romulo-Kenney agreements to make it clear that after conviction by the lower court for a non-service related offense, American soldiers should be in the custody of Philippine authorities pending the result of the appeal. - Dennis Carcamo

COURT DENNIS CARCAMO HIGH COURT INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL LEGAL STUDIES INTERNATIONAL LAW LAW CENTER LAWYER HARRY ROQUE MARINE LANCE CORPORAL DANIEL SMITH SUPREME COURT TUBBATAHA
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