US pressured Phl for Smith custody (3/3)

First published in The Philippine Star, 24 October 2014

MANILA, Philippines – The United States put enormous pressure on the Philippine government to regain custody of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith after his rape conviction in 2006, confidential cables released by WikiLeaks showed.

The STAR is reviewing cables released by WikiLeaks in 2011 in the light of the death of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, who was allegedly killed by Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton in Subic earlier this month.

A series of cables supposedly sent to Washington by then US ambassador Kristie Kenney revealed the actions taken by the embassy to regain custody of Smith after he was found guilty of raping a Filipina on Dec. 4, 2006.

Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 139 Judge Benjamin Pozon ordered the detention of Smith in a Philippine jail following the guilty verdict.

But US embassy officials argued that the US could retain custody of Smith as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) provides that the custody of an accused “shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”

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Wiki: US admitted ambiguity in VFA custody provision (2/3)

First published in The Philippine Star, 23 October 2014

MANILA, Philippines – The United States embassy recognized the “ambiguity” of the custody provision in the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and admitted in 2009 the need to clarify the issue with the Philippine government, a confidential cable released by WikiLeaks showed.

The STAR has started reviewing the cables released by WikiLeaks in 2011 in the light of the death of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, who was allegedly killed by a US Marine in Subic earlier this month.

One cable – dated April 27, 2009 and supposedly classified confidential by then US ambassador Kristie Kenney – revealed the embassy’s position agreeing to the need to clarify the custody issue of US servicemen convicted for committing a crime in the country.

“Given ambiguity in the VFA about both where custody lies following initial conviction of a US servicemen and detention facilities where they should be held, we believe it is important that we begin discussions on how we clarify these undelineated requirements and whether there is a more workable, less debilitating, custody process,” read Kenney’s comment in the cable sent to Washington.

The supposed cable was written just days after the Court of Appeals reversed the conviction of US serviceman Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, who was charged for allegedly raping a Filipina in Subic in 2005.

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WikiLeaks bares plan to bury VFA review in ’09 (1/3)

First published in The Philippine Star, 22 October 2014

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had planned to “bury in bureaucracy” the review of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in 2009 to take the “issue off the front pages” months before the 2010 elections, according to a confidential US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks.

The STAR recently reviewed the cables released by WikiLeaks in 2011 in the light of the death of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in Subic earlier this month, allegedly at the hands of a US marine. The suspect, Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, is under custody of his superiors on the USS Peleliu.

The incident sparked calls for a review or abrogation of the VFA.

One particular cable, dated Sept. 24, 2009 and supposedly classified confidential by then US ambassador to Manila Kristie Kenney, revealed the circumstances behind the Philippine government’s plan to review the VFA that year.

According to the cable, the DFA decided to conduct a comprehensive review of the VFA “to reduce the intensity of the debate and allow further consideration to take place in a less charged, post-election environment.”

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2016 poll ads start making rounds online

First published in The Philippine Star, 5 October 2014

MANILA, Philippines – It’s still more than a year before the 2016 presidential elections, but the Internet – particularly social media site Facebook – is already teeming with pages urging various personalities and politicians to run for the top post in the land.

And while Vice President Jejomar Binay appears to be the frontrunner in the next presidential race based on surveys, it was a different story when it came to his popularity on Facebook.

The STAR conducted a search yesterday on various personalities to verify the existence of “For President” pages bearing their names, and results showed the most popular was the one urging Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to run in 2016.

Called “Bongbong Marcos for President” movement, the Facebook community page – started just in August – already has over 238,000 likes.

“(It) is a movement of people united with the vision to bring Philippines back to greatness, to glory. We believe we need young, brilliant, progressive leadership to accomplish this. And so, we push and encourage others to call for the Presidency of Senator Marcos in 2016,” read the page’s description. Read more of this post

Massacre meant to frame Ampatuans, lawyer claims

First published in The Philippine Star, 1 October 2014

The new lawyer of Maguindanao massacre suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr. believes that members of the Ampatuan clan were “framed” by their political enemies in a bid to seize power.

“Why would the Ampatuans waylay and massacre the wife of a political rival and followers plus media practitioners in the enemy’s lair? That’s against common sense and logic,” lawyer Salvador Panelo said in a text message.

Panelo, who visited the massacre site yesterday, said the incident happened in the town of Datu Unsay, which he said is controlled by a rival clan – the Sangkis.

“They should have done it in the succeeding towns of Datu Shariff Aguak, Datu Hofer and Datu Amerah which they controlled,” he said. “I’m more convinced that the Ampatuans have been framed to seize political power.” Read more of this post