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‘Parang bumalik na naman tayo sa Military Bases Agreement’ lawyer says on VFA

FILE PHOTO: U.S. military forces take up positions during the annual “Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder) war games with Filipino soldiers at the shore of San Antonio, Zambales in northern Philippines April 21, 2015. Philippine and U.S. soldiers began their biggest combined military exercise in 15 years on Monday, in a demonstration of Washington’s commitment to its long-time ally as it rebalances to Asia in the face of China’s expansion in the South China Sea. REUTERS/Erik De Castro/File Photo

Atty. Antonio La Viña questioned provisions in the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that provide special treatment to American soldiers who committed a crime.

La Viña believes that the Philippines should challenge such provisions in the VFA since it makes the country appear ‘inferior’.

Parang bumalik na naman tayo sa Military Bases Agreement na inferior country tayo, na yung ating sistema inferior,” La Viña said on Sunday, September 13, during DZRH’s Maynila Ito Ang Pilipinas.

La Viña stressed that the biggest complaint on the 1974 Military Bases Agreement is that the United States has jurisdiction over American soldiers who committed an offense inside military bases.

The lawyer made the call following the issue regarding the release of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was convicted of homicide in 2015 for the killing of Filipino transwoman Jennifer Laude.

In an order dated Tuesday, September 1, Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74 Presiding Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde directed the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to release Pemberton.

The court ordered the release of the US serviceman after taking into account his accumulated Good Conduct Time Allowance, which reduces the sentence of an inmate who showed good behavior.

BuCor, however, decided to defer the release of Pemberton from detention at Camp Crame in Quezon City after a motion for reconsideration was filed.

Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte granted absolute pardon to Pemberton, which removed hindrances on his early release.

La Viña said that the Philippines should never sacrifice the welfare of Filipinos, particularly members of marginalized communities, for the sake of a good relationship with other countries.

Never mo sila i-sacrifice for good relations kasi hindi naman siya, sa tingin ko, kailangan gawin for good relations,” the lawyer said,

“Mas importante naman sa America yung VFA, kaysa sa isang sundalo. Dapat mas importante naman sa atin, on the other hand, yung isang tao, yung ating justice system,” he added.

Pemberton left the Philippines on Sunday on board a US military plane.

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