Unwanted outcomes

February 02, 2020

We should always be ready to reckon with the law on unintended consequences in making critical decisions, especially those that impact on the national interest.

Quite sadly, this is one hard law that cannot be repealed.

Consider the contemplated cancelation of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States.

The country could lose custody of US Marine Corps lance corporal and homicide convict Joseph Scott Pemberton, if the government cancels the VFA, Sen. Imee Marcos said.

The VFA gives Manila legal jurisdiction over American military personnel who commit crimes under the country's laws.

"Baka matuwa pa nga ang US pag nawala na ang VFA kasi pwede pa rin naman pumasok ang mga tropang Amerikano sa bansa natin dahil sa Mutual Defense Treaty at EDCA, pero wala nang hawak ang Pilipinas sa mga kasong kriminal kung mangyari man," Marcos said.

"Kung walang VFA, babalik tayo sa international law at batas ng bansa kung saan galing ang mga tropang dayuhan ang mangingibabaw," Marcos explained.

The US may demand that Pemberton be freed before he could serve his minimum jail sentence, if the VFA is ended before December 2021 or less than six years after his conviction, Marcos also said.

Pemberton was convicted and sentenced to six to 12 years in prison on Dec. 1, 2015 for the 2014 motel killing of transgender Jennifer Laude.

"Baka makaswerte pa ulit si Pemberton. Wala na nga siya sa ordinaryong kulungan, baka maiklian pa ang kanyang sentensya. Dagdag-sakit para sa pamilya ni Jennifer," Marcos said.

Pemberton is detained at Camp Aguinaldo under the watch of Philippine and American military personnel and is appealing his conviction on the grounds of self-defense.

Meanwhile, the Senate and Department of Justice have to move to separately study the impact of Manila’s withdrawal from its VFA with the US should establish "the weightier reasons" for its abrogation, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.

"Dapat malalim ang dahilan. It should go beyond the denial of a US visa to a senator," Recto said.

"Because what if the US restores the visa of my good friend Senator Bato, are we then going to reverse course, and press the stop button to the revocation process which, per reports, has been started?" he said.

"Paano kung bukas sasabihin ng Amerika na restored na ang visa ni Bato, ano gagawin natin? Is that the remedial action we are seeking or are we motivated by reasons more profound?" the veteran lawmaker  said.

Instead of junking the VFA, Marcos said that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement should be ended because it allows the U.S. military to skirt the constitutional ban on foreign bases in the Philippines and makes the country a potential target of America's adversaries.