Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, January 27, 2006

Court takes back arrest orders v. 4 US Marines

Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Renato Dilag ordered Thursday the recall of the warrants of arrests against four American soldiers charged with the rape of a 22-year-old Filipino woman in Subic Bay Freeport last November 1.

In a telephone interview, Dilag said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) failed to serve the warrants on principal accused Lance Corporal Daniel Smith and co-accused Staff Sergeant Chad Brian Carpentier, Lance Corporals Keith Silkwood, and Dominic Duplantis.

Dilag said there is no point in insisting on the court's physical custody of the four US servicemen since the country has recognized the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) as a treaty.

"Therefore, the VFA is also considered the law of the land. There is no need for actual custody of the accused since they are considered still under detention, even if they are at the US embassy," he said.

He said he will wait for Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. to resolve the pending motions for review filed by the four US servicemen.

Under the Rules of Court, the secretary of justice has 60 days to resolve the motions for review.

Once Gonzalez has issued his resolution, Dilag said he would set the immediate arraignment of the four US Marines.

In a separate interview, Gonzalez said the recent abolition of the VFA commission should not be misconstrued as an indication that MalacaƱang has recognized certain flaws in the treaty.

"I think MalacaƱang simply thinks that the existence of that body is actually a surplus. It will always be the DFA anyway that will carry the ball. I think it was simply created because it was thought that it was a necessary part of the implementation of the VFA. Wala naman talagang trabaho (There is no job) that will affect its implementation. In normal times, siguro (maybe) it would be a sort of a conduit," he said.

Gonzalez said the US should be able to show it respects the treaty by presenting the four accused on the date of their arraignment set by the court.

"To me, what is important is we can start the trial. We can test the US if they are sincere. That is written in the stone of the VFA that they will cooperate all the way. If the court sets the date for arraignment and trial, dyan mo makikita (that's when you'll see it). You cannot see their cooperation if they will not appear. I think what they are afraid of is when they appear they will be arrested. Then that will traverse the issue again," he said. (ECV/Sunnex) SunStar


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