Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Convicted Marine Transferred to U.S. Embassy in the Philippines

U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, sentenced to 40 years in jail for raping a Filipina in Subic, was transferred to the custody of the U.S. embassy in Manila from a prison last night, embassy spokesman Matthew Lussenhop said.

``He was transported in a U.S. embassy vehicle in coordination with Philippine police,'' Lussenhop said in a phone interview today. ``It was at the order of the government of the Philippines,'' Lussenhop said, when asked if the move violated an earlier court order against the transfer.

On Dec. 19, the Philippine Court of Appeals rejected Smith's petition to stop a lower court from implementing its Dec. 13 ruling denying his request for a transfer to U.S. custody pending the appeal on his conviction. Smith, 21, has been held in a Philippine jail since he was found guilty and sentenced on Dec. 4.

The transfer was in accordance with the Visiting Forces Agreement with the U.S. that became part of Philippine laws after being ratified by the Senate, Marius Corpus, deputy minister at the Philippine Department of Interior and Local Government, said in an interview aired on ABS-CBN news channel in Manila today.

The Visiting Forces Agreement sets the guidelines for Philippine-U.S. military exercises and the handling of criminal cases involving personnel who take part in them.

The rape took place in November 2005 in Olongapo City, north of Manila, while Smith was on leave after joint war exercises between troops from the two countries. Olongapo is near the former U.S. naval base at Subic Bay, where U.S. ships still dock.

The U.S. has cancelled joint military exercises with Philippine troops planned for 2007 until the custody issue is settled, Lussenhop said on Dec. 22. He didn't say today if the transfer means exercises will resume.

Group Protests

The transfer prompted Gabriela, a women's group in the Philippines, to stage a rally in front of the U.S. embassy in Manila today.

``They have staunchly defended the rapist and the Visiting Forces Agreement as protector of the rapist, and now they have gone this far to show their servitude to United States by allowing the escape of a criminal,'' Gabriela Secretary General Emmi de Jesus said in an e-mailed statement. ``We will hold them criminally liable for their betrayal of the people's trust, this rape of our nation's sovereignty.''
By Luzi Ann Javier - Bloomberg


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