Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Convicted US Marine still in RP, says new VFACom chief

MANILA, Philippines -- Convicted United States serviceman Lance Corporal Daniel Smith is "in the country," an official of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement told reporters Friday.

Undersecretary Edilberto Adan, newly appointed executive director, attended the three-day First Policy Consultation with Heads of Post of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

"He's in the country. There are regular visits by a team of Philippine officials that make sure he's in the country," Adan said, refusing to answer where in the country Smith is.

It has been almost three months since Smith was spirited out of the Makati City Jail almost midnight of December 28.

Smith was convicted of raping a 22-year-old Filipina, known only to the public as "Nicole," last November 2005 at the former US facility in Subic. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Despite pressure from the government, particularly Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Judge Benjamin Pozon ruled that Smith should spend his sentence in a Philippine jail until the US and Philippine governments have decided on a mutually agreed place to detain Smith.

The issue of where to keep Smith is pending before the Court of Appeals after Philippine and US authorities took him out of Makati City Jail and brought him to the US embassy in Manila.

Former VFACom chief Zosimo Paredes, who says that the VFA provides that the US has custody of Smith after the sentencing, was sacked for criticizing that action.

Adan, former Southern Command chief and Armed Forces spokesman, replaced Paredes last March 7. He is expected to play a key role in the VFACom when it undertakes the review of the Visiting Forces Agreement to thresh out contentious issues such as custody.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita had indicated that the next VFACom head should be one who would toe the government line on issues concerning the treaty.

He added that the next director should know the agreement intimately and be ready to recommend provisions of the pact that might need review.

The verdict against Smith is being appealed. His co-accused and fellow US servicemen Chad Carpentier, Dominic Duplantis, and Keith Silkwood left the country soon after their acquittal was announced.

( www.inquirer.net )



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