SEMINAR ON INTERNATIONAL LAW FOR MEDIA PRACTITIONERS


PRESS RELEASE
UP Law Center’s Institute of International Legal Studies (UP IILS)
For inquiries and confirmation of attendance, please call 929-3654 or 920-5514 loc. 207.

 
 

SEMINAR ON INTERNATIONAL LAW FOR MEDIA PRACTITIONERS 

 

The U.P. Law Center’s Institute of International Legal Studies (UP IILS) will conduct a seminar on International Law for Media Practitioners on Tuesday, October 28, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the 4th Floor, Penthouse, Bocobo Hall, U.P. Law Center, Diliman, Quezon City.

 

The proposed seminar is composed of a series of talks on international law for journalists and media practitioners in the Philippines.  The seminar topics seeks to arm journalists and media practitioners covering international stories with essential international Law concepts and nomenclature, and to acquaint them with the most important and relevant developments in international law that deserve their focus and attention.  Invited lecturers are noted international law experts.

 

Lecture topics include An Introduction and Overview to the International Legal System by Dean Merlin M. Magallona; Reporting on the West Philippine Sea: Key Concepts by Dr. Raul C. Pangalangan; The Implications of the UNCLOS to Philippine Territorial Claims and National Security by Prof. H. Harry L. Roque; Visiting Forces Agreement and Other Related Agreement with the United States of America also by Prof. H. Harry L. Roque; An Introduction to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court by Atty. Celeste Ruth L. Cembrano-Mallari; An Introduction to the World Trade Organization and the ASEAN Economic Integration: Focus on Thrusts and Commitments by DFA Executive Director Jose Victor V. Chan-Gonzaga; and The Most Common Errors Committed by Journalists in Reporting Stories with an International Law Aspect by Atty. Romel R. Bagares.

 

The seminar is free and open to representatives from the media, concerned government agencies, the academe, and other relevant institutions from the private sector.

 

For inquiries and confirmation of attendance, please call 929-3654 or 920-5514 loc. 207.

 

Please click here for the Media Practitioners Programme (Final)-Oct.28 (3)-2

On Laude: The issue is accountability


The issue that we have been trying to address with the Jennifer Laude case is one of accountability. Will a US Marine, normally exempt from jurisdiction of the Philippines, be sent to Muntinlupa in case he is proven guilty of murder?

If we go by the Daniel Smith incident, the answer would be no. Smith, despite having been found guilty by a trial court, was absolved after the victim issued an affidavit of recantation. Nicole, Smith’s victim, is now residing in the United States. This means that outside of a possible monetary settlement, it was ultimately the US government that offered the visa in exchange for the recantation.

What is the lesson learned from the Daniel Smith incident? That the US government will simply not surrender its soldiers to any foreign government no matter what crime they may have committed.

Much of course has been said about the fact that the constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement has been upheld twice by the Philippine Supreme Court, but always with strong dissent from the acknowledged heavyweights in the Court.  In both instances, our Supreme Court upheld its validity because it is not for them to decide the domestic requirements in order that the VFA should have the force and effect of law in the United States. That, according to our Supreme Court, is not its concern. In so doing, they brushed away the rationale for the constitutional requirement that the presence of foreign troops, facilities and bases in the country should only be pursuant to a treaty duly recognized by the other contracting party as such.

What is this rationale?

Under International Law, the acts of foreign troops in a foreign jurisdiction are absolutely immune from local jurisdiction. The latest case in this regard is that of Germany v. Italy. There, an Italian made to work against his will in a German munitions factory during World War II sued Germany before Italian courts for damages arising from his forced labor. The Italian courts granted him damages and proceeded to execute against the Goethe Institute, the German Cultural Office. Germany filed suit in the International Court of Justice. The Court ruled in favor of Germany and ruled that acts committed by German troops during World War II are absolutely immune from Italian domestic jurisdiction. It also ruled that diplomatic assets of the Goethe are also immune from execution.

This is the reason why the Constitution requires that presence of foreign troops and bases here should only be pursuant to a treaty. This is the only way around the absolute immunity of foreign troops in our country: if the US agrees to the exercise of local jurisdiction. Theoretically, the VFA is evidence that the US government has agreed that ordinary crimes committed by its troops while in pursuit of the VFA will be subject to the primary jurisdiction of the Philippines. This is to ensure that the US cannot claim immunity for common crimes committed by its troops.

The infirmity of the VFA hence in not having been concurred in by the US Senate is that this waiver of immunity does not have the force and effect of law in the US. This is because their legislative branch of their government, through the US Senate, did not give its concurrence to the agreement.

This in turn is why the Laude family now doubt if they can hold PFC Joseph Scott Pemberton criminally liable for murder. As of now, he is still in the custody of the US and hence, beyond the reach of Philippine jurisdiction. This has very practical ramifications: without custody over Pemberton, the Philippine National Police has not been able to subject him to custodial interrogation in connection with their investigation of the murder. In fact, because he has not been made available to Philippine authorities, we do not even have the basics of physical evidence from Pemberton such as thumb prints and buccal samples for DNA. Worse, since he was never in our custody, we have not had the opportunity to conduct a physical examination of his body to see if there is any physical evidence that Jennifer attempted to defend herself when she was attacked.

But ultimately, it was the Nicole precedent that has disparaged the family. Remember that Smith was found guilty but got away as a result of a compromise, the juiciest part of which were the US visas for Nicole and her family provided by the United States government.

This was the frame of mind of the Laude family and Jennifer’s fiance, Marc, when we descended on Camp Aguinaldo last Wednesday. As a lawyer, I deemed that the family has the right to ensure that Pemberton was indeed in Aguinaldo and the right to ask him basic questions such as why he murdered their loved one. This forms part of their right to satisfaction under human rights law. The fact that the sister Malou and Marc climbed over the fence came as a complete surprise. In reality, Malou is on the verge of losing hope, what with the entire machinery of the Philippine government, with the exception of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, espousing the alleged rights of Pemberton and justifying the existence of the VFA. Marc, on the other hand, followed Malou after he was enraged to have seen the US Marines guarding the premises laughing at Malou and the family. Any other reasonable person would have felt the same rage. What is unacceptable is the kind of rage expressed by Pemberton that led to the murder of Jennifer.

Jennifer will be laid to rest today. There will be a mass and neurological service at 2 pm at Columban Church in West Pinlac, Olongapo City. Her remains will then be laid to rest in Heritage Memorial Park.

All Filipinos, including members of the AFP, should condole with the Laude family. For unless the VFA is abrogated, we could be its next victims.

 

This post first appeared in http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/10/24/on-laude-the-issue-is-accountability/ on October 24, 2014.

Statement on the Camp Aguinaldo MDB-SEB facility incident (Laude vs Pemberton)


References:
Atty. Harry L. Roque 09175398096
Atty. Romel Regalado Bagares 09328798422
 
Army Lieutenant-Colonel Harold Cabunoc, chief of Public Affairs Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is mistaken that our client, Marc Sueselbeck, fiancé of murder victim Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, had violated Presidential Decree no. 1227, or the law punishing unlawful entry into any military base in the Philippines.
 
That law applies to a person “who, without express or implied permission or authority of the base commander or his duly authorized representatives, shall re-enter or is found within any military base after having been removed there from and ordered not to re-enter by the base commander or his duly authorized representative.”
 
In Mr. Suselbeck’s case, he, along with members of the Laude family, was allowed into the premises of Camp Aguinaldo, where the MDB-SEB facility — the detention area for PFC Pemberton — is located. Subsequently, he and Marilou Laude, a sister of the murder victim, entered the premises of the MDB-SEB in an angry bid to confront PFC Pemberton.
 
But PD 1227 applies only to a person who, having been removed from a Philippine military facility re-enters it or is found there yet again without proper permission from the base commander.
 
We do not wish to belabor this point any further, as the Laude family’s focus is on tomorrow’s funeral for their loved one.
 
We wish to inform everyone that a necrological service for Jennifer is scheduled tomorrow at 2 pm at the Columban Church in West Pinlac, Olongapo City. Afterwards, Jennifer’s remains will be laid to rest following a 3-kilometer march at the Heritage Memorial Park.
 
All Filipinos who love to see justice done in Jennifer’s case are welcome.

However, should Philippine authorities, at the behest of their American counterparts, charge and jail Mr. Sueselbeck because of what happened, certainly, the irony will not be lost on the Filipino people: here is a person seeking justice for someone he loves being placed behind bars while the very person accused of the murder remains outside the pale of Philippine law, and coddled by a government subservient to its foreign masters.
 
They should just as well charge and jail Jennifer’s sister Marilou, the complainant in the murder proceedings against PFC Pemberton, since she as well scaled the perimeter fence of the facility in search of justice for her murdered brother.
 
Our client Mr. Sueselbeck – while he regrets having been overtaken by emotion when he saw the US marines there mocking Ms. Laude – is ready to face the consequences of what he did.
 
Atty. Harry Roque, our lead counsel, beseeches “the understanding of everyone. Our clients are losing hope that justice will be served at all in the death of their loved one. Surely the armed forces understand their predicament.”
 
When we talked to Mr. Sueselbeck about this, he was very apologetic and told us he “just blanked out” and did not know the strength that suddenly seized him and propelled him to do what he did. He was overcome with anger when he saw US marines posted there laughing at Ms. Laude’s efforts to get inside the premises of the facility.
 
He wishes to apologize to the Filipino marine guarding the outer reaches of the facility he unintentionally ran against.

Laude family asks Olongapo Prosecutor to subject Pemberton to DNA and fingerprint tests


Centerlaw release
Reference: Professor Harry L. Roque, Jr. 09175398096

Please see attached Omnibus Motion we filed yesterday with the Office of the Prosecutor in Olongapo City, asking that fingerprints and DNA test samples be taken from PFC Pemberton.

Click here for a copy of the Omnibus Motion of Marilou S. Laude vs. Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton

In memory of Jennifer: Junk Vfa


I am in Olongapo City standing as lawyer for the Laude family in connection with the gruesome murder of Jennifer.

To set the record straight, I “did not volunteer” my services to the family. A couple of months back, we had a training here in Subic jointly sponsored by the American Bar Association and the defunct AustAid on victim’s rights advocacy. The said training was intended primarily for civil society organizations so that they will know what to do in case there is a case of extralegal killing or torture in their community. That training had members of the Kilusan Demokratikong Pilipino and the women’s group KAISA-KA, the same group also advocating the cause of the last remaining comfort women in Pampanga, in attendance. So when Jennifer’s killing became public in Olongapo, both civil society groups lost no time in assisting the family in taking steps that the proper investigation of the crime take place. Kudos to them, we now have at least three eyewitnesses who can testify that Jennifer was last seen in the company of Pemberton in the crime scene. It was also civil society that alerted police authorities about the occurrence of the crime, which led to the timely investigation by the SOCO of the PNP led by Maj De La Torre.

Yesterday, we filed the criminal compliant that would trigger the process of preliminary investigation to begin. We had doubts about whether the proceedings could move forward given that the Respondent, PFC Joseph Scott Pemberton, is still in the custody of his American superiors. We asked ourselves: where would the Prosecutor serve him with notices for preliminary investigation? We indicated the name of his ship. In reality, no process server from the DOJ could board the vessel since it is an American warship.

So the Laude family is now in a quandary. While their filing of the criminal complaint triggers the legal process, how could it proceed without Philippine custody over the person of the Respondent?

Apparently, the Daniel Smith precedent was different.  There, Smith was immediately made available to Philippine authorities for purposes of attendance in all proceedings as soon as he was identified. But for some reason, this has not happened to Pemberton. His identity was ascertained as of last Monday at the latest, and yet until today, Thursday, US authorities have not made him available for investigation purposes. Could it be that US authorities are contemplating of exercising jurisdiction over him since murder as a hate crime against a transgender relates as well to the discipline of its troops? If this is so, this is worrisome since unlike the case of Smith, American authorities may not have Pemberton available to Philippine authorities altogether.

For the record, we decided to still press charges as of last night since this will at least inform the entire nation that the ball is now in the hands of the Philippine government. The most that the victims can do under the circumstance is to commence with the filing of complaint to trigger the preliminary investigation. Unfortunately, the victims are powerless to compel US authorities to have their soldier available to attend the proceedings. We filed nonetheless at least to illustrate exactly how the VAF offends Philippine sovereignty and jurisdiction. For while Philippine laws were breached and despite the fact that the Victim was a Filipino killed in his own country, our legal system appears to be powerless against the person of a US serviceman.

The consolation is that at least, DFA Secretary Del Rosario, unike the Department’s spokesperson,  has articulated the correct interpretation of the VFA. That is, Philippine authorities should have custody over non-service related crimes committed by US servicemen under extraordinary circumstances. I join Sec Del Rosario that a murder committed as a hate crime against a transgender, suffices to qualify as an “extraordinary” circumstance to warrant Philippine custody over Pemberton.

In any case, the brutal killing of Jennifer, a apparently from drowning in a toilet bowl, should be a wake-up call to all Filipinos that the VFA, and the EDCA will never serve the Filipino interest. Unless we abrogate the VFA and reject the EDCA, more Filipinos will suffer the fate of Jennifer: victimized my bigoted US servicemen and yet denied an adequate domestic remedy.

My promise though is when we fail to get justice for Jennifer and the nation before Philippines courts, we will pursue the killer before foreign courts wherever the bigoted killer may be. Meanwhile, we should unite as a nation and assert our sovereignty: Junk the VFA! Junk the EDCA!

Bail granted to 17 cops in Ampatuan case inconsequential


Centerlaw release
Reference : Professor Harry L. Roque, Jr.

Lawyer Harry Roque downplayed yesterday the decision by the Quezon City regional trial court to grant bail to 17 police officers tagged as perpetrators in the Maguindanao Massacre case.

“The bail granted is not too consequential as far as we are concerned,” said Roque, who represents the families of 15 victims of the massacre, most of whom are journalists from Mindanao. “We’re focused on proving the guilt of the Ampatuans before 2016 and we believe we have strong evidence to prove precisely that.”

The police officers are among 64 Philippine National Police (PNP) officers and men facing administrative cases before the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) in connection with the massacre.

The administrative cases were filed by the Center for International Law, a non-profit dedicated to the promotion of free expression in the Philippines and Asia headed by Roque.

Pinay transgender slay proof US military presence never good for us


The alleged killing by a U.S. Marine of a Filipina transgender in Subic Bay is proof that the presence of foreign troops on Philippine soil will never work for the national interest, according to human rights lawyer Harry Roque.

“We should learn from history, foreign military presence and national interest do not mix well,” said Roque.

Roque, Chairperson of Center for International Law, a think-tank dedicated to the promotion of international legal norms in Philippines and Asia, who also teaches constitutional law and international law at the University of the Philippines College of Law, is one of the petitioners challenging the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States.

According to Roque, the agreement, which expands the presence of US military forces in various parts of the country, violates the constitutional bar to the establishment of US military bases in the country.

Earlier, Jeffery Laude, also known as “Jennifer,” a 26-year old transgender, was found in the toilet of a room at Celzone Lodge late Saturday in Olongapo City. Police said the victim was apparently strangled to death after checking into a room at the lodge near the former US military base at Subic Bay with a “male, white foreigner”, later on identified as a US marine personnel.

Roque said Laude’s case recalls yet again the iniquitous provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement on detention facilities for US servicemen found guilty of violating Philippine laws.

EDCA is being pushed by the Philippine government as a necessary supplement to the VFA, to enable the country to better address Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

Roque had served as counsel in a petition questioning the VFA in the wake of a conviction by the Makati City Regional Trial Court of US serviceman Daniel Smith in 2006 for the rape of a Filipina, Suzette Nicholas, also in Subic Bay. Roque filed the petition after Philippine authorities summarily transferred Smith from the Makati City jail to the US Embassy before he could be formally turned over to the National Penitentiary.

Ruling on the petition, the Supreme Court said the VFA’s constitutionality is not open to question. However, it also said that the Philippines and United states should renegotiate the terms of the VFA in regard to detention facilities under Philippine authorities for US servicemen found guilty of crimes in the country.

In February 2013, in a motion for execution, Roque asked the High Court to compel the Department of Foreign Affairs to renegotiate the relevant provisions of the VFA in accordance with the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Nicholas case.

Early this year, the High Court denied the petition, saying it does not have jurisdiction to hear a motion for execution. On motion for reconsideration, it said US and Philippine authorities have already met to discuss the question of detention facilities, with the Philippines proposing the AFP Custodial Center as an “agreed facility.”