MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / 30 Dec) – The U.S. Embassy in Manila said convicted American soldier Lance Corporal Daniel Smith has been transferred from the Makati City Jail back to U.S. military custody.
It said the transfer of Smith to U.S. authority is consistent with the terms of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), an international bilateral agreement that is binding on both the United States and the Republic of the Philippines.
A local court ordered the U.S. Marine locked up in Makati City jail after he was found guilty December 4 of raping a Filipino woman last year at the Subic. Bay Freeport in Olongapo City.
Judge Benjamin Pozon, of the Makati Regional Trial Court, previously denied a petition by Smith’s lawyers to transfer him to the U.S. Embassy while they are still appealing the case.
Smith, 21, was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
U.S. officials said Article V, Paragraph 6 of the Visiting Forces Agreement specifies: “That custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with the United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”
They said that Smith is not a private citizen, and therefore the handling of his case is subject to the terms of the VFA.
“Lance Corporal Smith will now return to U.S. military custody in the same facility at the U.S. Embassy which he was previously held for the duration of the trial,” a U.S. Embassy statement said.
“The U.S. Government has complied throughout this case with the provisions of the VFA, which provides the framework for U.S.-Philippines cooperation on legal cases involving U.S. service members. We will continue to adhere to the provisions of the VFA in coordination with the relevant Philippine authorities,” it said.
Filipino government officials took away Smith from the Makati City jail late Friday and handed over to the U.S. Embassy. The woman raped by Smith and militant and women’s groups supporting her were angered by the move and vowed to launch street protests and file charges in court against the Philippine officials.
The U.S. military earlier suspended all joint military exercises scheduled for next year because of the court’s refusal to hand over Smith to the Embassy. (Mindanao Examiner)