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.

Provisional measures


Philippine policy makers have confirmed that despite the pendency of its arbitration proceedings under the binding and compulsory dispute settlement procedure of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, China is hastening the building of an artificial island in Mabini reef, as well as expanding its existing artificial island in Fiery Reef.

Contemporaneous with these construction, China has been more aggressive in exercising its sovereign right to explore for oil in the disputed area leading to recent boat ramming incidents resulting in at least 10 Vietnamese being wounded. It also issued what appears to be a demand letter for the Philippines to leave all of the disputed islands and waters in the Spratlys, as well as from Panatag shoal, the latter being separate and distinct form the Spratlys.

I have written before that China’s acts are consistent with its published defense policy, which currently seeks to achieve “sea-denial capability” in what it considers as its coastal waters, the waters within the so-called nine-dash lines. Clearly, one must commend the Chinese—albeit bereft of legal merits—for their consistency in both policy formulation and implementation.

Given recent Chinese actions and the fact that contrary to the best hope of Philippine policy makers that US President Obama’s visit to the region will have a deterrent effect on Chinese expansionism, these recent events validate China’s design to expel all other claimant countries from the disputed territory on or before 2020, which is only six years away. Given this reality, it becomes imperative for the Philippines to prompt the UNCLOS ad hoc Tribunal to hasten the process of its ruling particularly on the validity of the nine-dash lines, described by a Japanese academic recently descried as a prayer for “declaration of rights” rather than an exercise of maritime delimitation, the latter being covered by a Chinese reservation to the jurisdiction of the UNCLOS dispute settlement procedure.

One manner by which the Philippines could utilize the existing arbitration as a means to curtail China from its expansionist desires is through a remedy known as “provisional remedy” provided under Art. 290 (1) of the UNCLOS. Said provision reads: “If a dispute has been duly submitted to a court or tribunal which considers that prima facie it has jurisdiction under this Part or Part XI, section 5, the court or tribunal may prescribe any provisional measures which it considers appropriate under the circumstances to preserve the respective rights of the parties to the dispute or to prevent serious harm to the environment, pending the final decision”.

Case law is replete with instances when Tribunals deciding on issues involving the Law of the Sea have resorted to provisional measures. For instance, the ITLOS, prior to the formation of an Hoc panel headed by Filipino Florentino Feliciano in the Southern Blue Fin Tuna case, issued a provisional order against Japan from further fishing of blue fin tuna in the pacific pending resolution of the arbitration on the merits. Likewise, in MV Saga No. 2, ITLOS issued provisional measures for the immediate release of the vessel and its crew. In the latest case between Netherlands and Russia involving the arrest and charging of Greenpeace activists charged by Russia with piracy, the ITLOS also issued provisional orders for the immediate release of the activists.

The literal provisions of Art 290 of the UNCLOS on provisional remedies require only two elements for the issuance of a provisional order, to wit; prima facie determination of subject matter; two, necessity of preserving rights of the parties pending the final decision.

I suppose the reason why the Philippine legal panel did not ask for provisional measures from the start of its claim is because of China’s specific reservations to the dispute settlement of the UNCLOS which may come to play where a provisional order is asked of the tribunal. Specifically, this relates to the exercise of law enforcement activities arising from the exercise of sovereign rights. Note that the arbitration was finally resorted to by the Philippines after its fishermen were literally barred from fishing in the area of the Panatag shoal. Fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone is an exercise of sovereign rights, which relates to the exclusive right to explore and exploit natural resources found in the EEZ. Had the Philippines asked at the onset for provisional remedy against China barring Filipino fishermen from fishing in Panatag, the controversy would have fallen on a subject matter expressly reserved by China from the jurisdiction of the tribunal: the sovereign right to fish.

But China’s recent acts have gone beyond law enforcement activities relating to sovereign rights. The building of artificial islands in low tide elevations, such as Mabini reef and Fiery Cross reef, are actual exercise of sovereign rights and do not relate to law enforcement activities. Likewise, its recent use of and resort to the threat to the use of force against the Philippines and Vietnam, coupled with its demand for both claimants to leave the area under their possession, are clear exercise of sovereignty and do not relate to the subject matter reservation of China. Moreover, China’s acts, because they are done pursuant to its disputed nine-dash lines, may be challenged on the basis that the Philippine (would be) prayer for provisional measures, and its prayer on the merits, call for declaration of rights and not maritime delimitation, the latter also excluded by China in its reservations to the UNCLOS dispute settlement procedure.

The bottom line is this: when the UNCLOS required all parties thereto to bring all questions of interpretation and application to the dispute settlement of the Convention, it could not have contemplated that state parties who opted not to participate in these proceedings should be allowed to violate provision of the Convention with impunity more so when they choose not to participate in the compulsory proceedings. Given China’s recent actuations, it’s high time that it is reigned in through a provisional measure.

China is challenging UNCLOS


Following is an excerpt from my discussion in the recently concluded 5th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of International Law held last June 15, 2014 at Chuo University in Tokyo.

China’s snub of the Philippine arbitral claim on the West Philippine Sea and its slew of building projects on disputed reefs in the area are aserious and belligerent violations of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which it is a party.

Its refusal to participate in the arbitration and its unilateral acts in building artificial islands in the disputed maritime area of the Spratlys constitute a serious breach of the UNCLOS. As a party to the Convention, China agreed to refer all matters involving interpretation and application of the UNCLOS to the compulsory and binding dispute settlement procedure of the Convention.

The international community took a very long time to agree on the provisions of UNCLOS because all countries of the world wanted the Convention to be the “constitution for the seas”. By prohibiting reservations and by adopting all provision on the basis of consensus, it was the intention of the world community to do away with the use of force and unilateral acts in the resolution of all disputes arising from maritime territory.

The view expressed recently by Judge Xue Hanquin, the Chinese Judge in the International Court of Justice, that states that made declarations when they ratified the UNCLOS, China included, are “deemed to have opted out of the dispute settlement procedure of the Convention” is erroneous. Proof of this is that China subsequently made reservations only as to specific subject matters from the jurisdiction of the dispute settlement procedures. This proves that China agreed to be bound by the procedure and hence, it is under a very clear obligation to participate in the proceedings, if only to dispute the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.

More worrisome is China’s recent resort to the use of force in bolstering its claim to the disputed territories.

It has been reported recently that China has been building artificial islands in Johnson South Reef and expanding its artificial island in Fiery Cross reef, and deploying its naval forces to ward off any opposition.

These construction are happening in the face of China’s snub of the arbitral proceedings which precisely impugns China’s legal rights to do so. Clearly, China’s conduct is not only illegal as prohibited use of force, but is also contemptous of the proceedings.

The Philippines initiated proceedings under the UNCLOS dispute settlement procedure to declare that China’s nine-dash lines is illegal since it is not sanctioned by the UNCLOS. The Philippine claim also asked the Hague-based arbitral tribunal that four “low-water elevations,” so-called because they are only visible during low tide, and where China has built artificial islands, be declared as part of the continental shelf of the Philippines, and that the waters outside of the 12 nautical miles of Panatag shoal be declared as part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.

China’s claim is that the waters within the nine-dash lines are generated by land territory and hence, the controversy cannot be resolved under the UNCLOS. But clearly, the three specific prayers of the Philippines involve only issues of interpretation and application of specific provisions to UNCLOS relating to internal waters, territorial sea, Exclusive Economic Zones, islands, and low tide elevations. While the Spratlys dispute without a doubt also involves land territory, this is not the subject of the Philippines’ claim.

The Chinese academic in the conference, Prof. Zhang Xinjun of Tsinghua University, characterized the Philippine arbitral claim as a “mixed claim” because it involves both claims to sovereignty arising from land territory and not just purely maritime territory. This, he explained, is why the UNCLOS arbitral tribunal lacks jurisdiction over the Philippine claim. He likened the Philippine proceeding to that initiated by Mauritius against the United Kingdom. In this case, which is also pending, the UK has argued that the dispute settlement proceedings of UNCLOS should not apply because the disputed maritime territory are generated by land territory.

The Japanese academic, Prof. Nishimoto Kentaro of Tohoku University, on the other hand, expressed reservations whether the Philippines could prevail in impugning China’s title to all four islands where it has built artificial islands, two of which the Philippines claims, should form part of its continental shelf. The Japanese academic observed that since two of these islands are within the 200 nautical miles of Ito Iba Island, currently under the control of Taiwan, these two may not be declared as part of the international sea bed.

He supported, however, the Philippines’ position on the nine-dash lines arguing that in seeking a declaration of nullity of these lines, the Philippines was not engaged in maritime delimitation, but in an action for a declaration of rights, which is an issue of interpretation and application of the UNCLOS. He characterized the Philippines position against the Nine-Dash lines as “very strong”.

Japan is also engaged in its own territorial dispute with China over Senkaku Island.

4

UP PROF: “CHINA CHALLENGING UNCLOS”


REF. Atty Romel Bagares 09166679802

China’s snub of the Philippine arbitral claim on the West Philippine Sea and its slew of building projects on disputed reefs in the area are “a serious and belligerent violation of” the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), of which it is a member, according to an outspoken Filipino legal academic at an international law conference in Tokyo.

Speaking at the 5th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of International law at the Chuo University Law School last Sunday, University of the Philippines professor Harry L. Roque Jr. said that China’s refusal to participate in the arbitration and its unilateral acts in building artificial islands in the disputed maritime area of the Spratly’s constitutes a “serious breach of the UNCLOS since as a party to the Convention, China agreed to refer all matters involving interpretation and application of the UNCLOS to the compulsory and binding dispute settlement procedure of the Convention”.

Roque, who is also Director of the UP Law Center’s Institute of international Legal Studies, said that the international community took a very long time to agree on the provisions of UNCLOS because all countries of the world wanted the Convention to be the “constitution for the seas”.

“By prohibiting reservations and by adopting all provision on the basis of consensus, it was the intention of the world community to do away with the use of force and unilateral acts in the resolution of all disputes arising from maritime territory,” said Roque.

Debunking the view expressed recently by Judge Xue Hanquin, the Chinese Judge in the International Court of Justice that states that made declarations when they ratified the UNCLOS, China included, are deemed to have opted out of the dispute settlement procedure of the Convention, Roque noted that China’s subsequent reservations only as to specific subject matters from the jurisdiction of the dispute settlement procedures proves that China agreed to be bound by the procedure. “This means that China is under a very clear obligation to participate in the proceedings, if only to dispute the jurisdiction of the Tribunal,” Roque said.

More worrisome, according to Roque, is China’s recent resort to the use of force in bolstering its claim to the disputed territories.

It has been reported recently that China has been building artificial islands in Johnson South Reef and expanding its artificial island in Fiery Cross reef, and deploying its naval forces to ward off any opposition.

“These construction are happening in the face of China’s snub of the arbitral proceedings which precisely impugns China’s legal rights to do so. Clearly, China’s conduct is not only illegal as prohibited use of force, but is also contemptous of the proceedings”, Roque said.

The Philippines is the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea to declare that China’s nine-dash lines is illegal since it is not sanctioned by the UNCLOS. The Philippine claim also asked the Hague -based arbitral tribunal that four “low-water elevations,” so-called because they are only visible during low tide, and where China has build artificial islands, be declared as part of the continental shelf of the Philippines, and that the waters outside of the 12 nautical miles of Panatag shoal be declared as part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.

Roque belied China’s claim that the waters within the nine-dash lines are generated by land territory and hence, the controversy cannot be resolved under the UNCLOS. “Clearly, the three specific prayers of the Philippines involve interpretation and application of specific provisions to UNCLOS relating to internal waters, territorial sea, Exclusive Economic Zones, islands, and low tide elevations. While the Spratlys dispute without a doubt also involves land territory, these are not the subjects of the Philippines claim, Roque added.

The Chinese academic in the conference, Prof. Zhang Xinjun of Tsinghua University, characterized the Philippine arbitral claim as a “mixed claim” because it involves both claims to sovereignty arising from land territory and not just purely maritime territory. This, he explained, is why the UNCLOS arbitral tribunal lacks jurisdiction over the Philippine claim. He likened the Philippine proceeding to that initiated by Mauritius against the United Kingdom. In this case, while it is also pending, the UK has argued that the dispute settlement proceedings of UNCLOS should not apply because the disputed maritime territory are generated by land territory.

The Japanese academic, Prof. NIishimoto Kentaro of Tohoku University, on the other hand, expressed reservations whether the Philippines could prevail in impugning China’s title to all four islands, which the Philippines claimed should form part of the Philippine continental shelf. At least two of these islands are within the 200 nautical miles of Ito Iba Island, currently under the control of Taiwan, and thus may not form part of the Philippine continental shelf, according to the Japanese academic.

He supported however the Philippines position on the nine-dash lines arguing that in seeking a declaration of nullity of these lines, the Philippines was not engaged in maritime delimitation, but in an action for a declaration of rights, which is an issue of interpretation and application of the UNCLOS. He characterized the Philippines position against the Nine-Dash lines as “very strong”.

Japan is also engaged in its own territorial dispute with China over Senkaku Island.

Prof. Roque’s power point presentation at the conference may be found in http://www.harryroque.com

The EDCA: What’s in it for us?


Why should we allow ourselves to be attacked by the enemies of the US when the US has not given us the same assurance it had given Japan that it would come to our assistance against China?

Let’s compare exactly what President Barack Obama promised the Japanese and what he promised us.

“Our commitment to Japan’s security is absolute and article five [of the security treaty] covers all territories under Japan’s administration, including the Senkaku islands.” In this context, Obama promised that the US is duty-bound to come to Japan’s aid in the event of a conflict with China over a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Compare this with what he declared regarding the Philippines: “Our commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad. x x x We believe that nations and peoples have the right to live in security and peace and to have their sovereignty and territorial integrity respected.” Furthermore, the US President declared, “We believe that international law must be upheld, that freedom of navigation must be preserved and commerce must not be impeded. We believe that disputes must be resolved peacefully and not by intimidation or force.”

While both commitments appear to be firm, note that Obama did not mention the Spratlys or Panatag in his remarks about the Philippines. He however explicitly mentioned Senkaku Island, which is at the heart of the territorial dispute between China and Japan.

Why was this so?

It is because unlike Senkaku, which the US believes is part of the Japanese territory, the Americans have never believed that we have title over the Spratlys and the Scarborough shoal. In fact in 1933 when France first declared it had title to the Spratlys, only Japan, China and the United Kingdom protested the French claim. The Americans, who were then the colonial power in the Philippines, did not protest the French proclamation. Why? Because they thought that what they purchased from Spain through the Treaty of Paris were only the land territories contained in the map annexed to the Treaty, even if the Treaty does specify that what was bought was the “archipelago of the Philippines, the common meaning of which means islands and waters forming a unitary whole.

So if the Americans would not come to our assistance against China on the West Philippines Sea, why did we allow them further access to our military bases?

Under International Humanitarian Law, the governing law in times of armed conflict, all enemies of the US can target our territory since we allowed US servicemen and facilities to be in our territory. This means that in case of a shooting war, say over Crimea, or because of the on-going US war against terrorism, Russia and terrorist groups can now lawfully target our territory because US troops are present in our territory. With this very high cost arising from the EDCA, what’s in it for us?

Certainly it can’t be any monetary benefit since EDCA does not even require the Americans to pay us rent. Economic reality has made the maintenance of permanent US bases unaffordable for the Americans. Perhaps this is also why they would not pay rent even for their short-term presence in our territory.

Other than the misplaced gratification on the part this administration to be known as America’s lackey, I can’t think of any further benefit that we can derive from the EDCA.

Worse, the EDCA is unconstitutional. While the Aquino administration claimed that it is in furtherance of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement, neither treaty is in fact applicable. The MDT is applicable only in case of an armed attack against our “metropolitan territory” or attacks against our “islands in the Pacific”. Since there is currently no armed attack, and since an attack on the Spratlys cannot trigger the application of the MDT, the EDCA cannot possibly be based on the MDT. Neither can it be anchored on the VFA because the presence of US troops pursuant to EDCA goes beyond “visiting”. It is in fact an implementation of a US Defense policy to do away with permanent bases. This being the case, EDCA had to be signed as a separate agreement from the MDT and the VFA. This is why our policy makers, through a 2/3 vote of all our senators, need to give their concurrence to the agreement . This is to ensure that it is pursuant to our national interest.

Perhaps, this administration does not want the senators involved because it knows that the EDCA does not promote our national interest and/or that the administration simply does not have the political support in the Senate, at least not the kind of support that it had when former Chief Justice Renato Corona was removed.

Let’s wise up. Only the Filipinos can stand up for the Philippine interest. Enough of this colonial mentality.

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WHATS IN IT FOR US? (CENTERLAW STATEMENT ON THE RECENTLY SIGNED 10 YEAR ENHANCED MIITARY AGREEMENT WITH THE US)


 

Ref. Prof. Harry Roque 09175398096

What’s in it for us? This was the question asked by UP College of Law Professor Harry Roque, Chair of the Center for International Law.

As Malacanang announced the signing of a 10 year enhanced military cooperation agreement with the United States, Centerlaw expresses its disappointment over the administration’s failure to advance the Philippine national interest in agreeing to what amounts to an increased rotational presence of US troops in the country.

“If the US will clearly state that the agreement will trigger Americas military assistance if China expels the Philippines form Ayungin shoal and any of the other disputed islands in the Spratly’s, then perhaps. It makes sense to allow the US further access to our military bases and facilities. But the reality is the United States has on the contrary, declared that it will not be dragged into a military confrontation with China over the use of force in the Spratly’s’, So why did we give them further access to our territory in the first place Roque asked

The Mutual Defense Pact of 1951 stipulates that the US will come to the assistance of the Philippines if its territory is attacked by a third state. The US though does not recognize the Philippine title to the Spratly’s and Panatag, insisting that its interest in the disputed area is only to maintain freedom of navigation.

Roque explained: “This is again a one sided agreement where the Philippines allowed itself to be attacked by an enemy of the US in case the latter figures in an armed conflict with a third state. This conflict, will however, not be because of the Spratlys because the US does not believe we have title to the disputed area. The American had their cake and ate it too”.

Roque, who is also Director of the UP Law Center’s Institute of International Legal Studies also expressed the view that the agreement requires Senate concurrence because of the express language of the Constitution that the stationing of foreign troops and bases shall only be through a Treaty duly concurred in by the senate. This, Roque explained, is to ensure that the people’s representatives can ensure that the agreement is pursuant to the national interest, which involves policy making and is hence a legislative power under our Constitution.

 

 

On Ayungin: Conquest No Longer Valid Means to AcquireTerritory


 

Even if China were to remove the Sierra Madre from Ayungin shoal and build yet another artificial island there, it will never acquire title over the area. The reason: International Law has long outlawed the acquisition of territory through conquest.

China also better rethink whether it should tow-awau a commissioned naval vessel. Derelicit as it may be, it is subject to full sovereign immunity and any attempt to tow it away from Ayungin may finally trigger the applicability of the US-Phil Mutual Defence Treaty. Thus far the US has said that the Treaty may not be triggered by fighting in the West Philippine Sea becauae it does not recognize Philippine title to the area. But an attack against a Philippine comissioned naval vessel may be sufficient for the purpose. The result: the West Philippine Sea, unless China backs off, may trigger the biggest armed conflict in the region since the Vietnam and Indo-China conflict.