Smith Transfer ‘Another Meiring’?

Dec. 30, 2006


The surreptitious release of Cpl. Daniel Smith, in the middle of the night at that, to the custody of the United States, despite pending litigation in Philippine courts, is not only a violation of the Constitution, but also a complete disregard and disrespect for the judicial branch including the Supreme Court. It is not only a contempt of court, but treachery that signals the complete breakdown of the rule of law.

Pres. Gloria Arroyo has submitted the custody issue to the jurisdiction of the judiciary by intervening in the Court of Appeals and arguing against Judge Pozons order. Not only is the Executive without the power to transfer a convict under the custody of the Regional Trial Court, but it is also estopped from doing the same since it submitted the issue to the judgment of the Court of Appeals, and ultimately the Supreme Court. The unilateral action by the Executive is courting a constitutional clash between two branches of government, should the Supreme Court uphold RTC Judge Pozon and order the Executive to confine Smith to the Makati City Jail or the New Bilibid Prisons. The US embassy is a foreign territory under international law, beyond the reach of any Supreme Court order.

Pres. Gloria Arroyo has again committed another culpable violation of the Constitution. Under Sec. 17 and Sec. 5, of Art. VII, 1987 Constitution the President is required to defend the Constitution and execute all laws faithfully.

Under Section 13 of the 1987 Constitution, anyone who commits a capital offense in the Philippines cannot post bail nor be released on recognizance, when the evidence of guilt is strong. Not only were the evidence strong against Smith, but they were sufficient to find him guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Allowing the accused to remain in US custody is releasing Smith on recognizance to the US government, clearly not allowed under the Constitution. The Visiting Forces Agreement, or any treaty for that matter, cannot trump the 1987 Constitution.

The US will in fact be violating their obligations under the VFA if they continue exercising absolute custody over the accused as provided in Art. II (VFA):

Art. II It is the duty of the US personnel to respect the laws of the Republic of the Philippines x x x The US Government shall take all measures within its authority to ensure that this is done.

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