Visiting Forces Agreement Case: An Overview

In recent years, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the United States and the Philippines has been a topic of heated debate. The agreement, which has been in effect since 1999, allows for US military personnel to enter the Philippines for joint training exercises and other activities.

While some argue that the VFA strengthens the military alliance between the US and the Philippines, others contend that it undermines Philippine sovereignty and can lead to human rights violations by US military personnel. The recent case of Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton has brought these issues to the forefront.

Pemberton, a US Marine, was accused of killing a Filipino transgender woman named Jennifer Laude in October 2014. After a trial in a Philippine court, he was convicted of homicide and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. However, due to the terms of the VFA, Pemberton was held in US custody at a Philippine military base rather than a Philippine prison.

This sparked an uproar among human rights activists and Philippine citizens, who saw the VFA as allowing a double standard in justice. The Philippine government called for Pemberton to be transferred to a Philippine prison, but the US government refused, citing the VFA.

Eventually, in September 2020, Pemberton was granted an absolute pardon by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, effectively ending his sentence. The case highlighted the controversial nature of the VFA and its potential impact on Philippine sovereignty and justice.

While the VFA remains in effect, there have been calls for its renegotiation or termination. Some argue that the Philippines should not be dependent on a foreign military for its defense, and that the VFA does not benefit the country as much as it benefits the US. Others argue that the VFA should remain in place as a symbol of the strong alliance between the US and the Philippines.

As the VFA continues to be a contentious issue, it is important for both sides to consider the potential consequences of its impact on justice, sovereignty, and military relations. The case of Pemberton serves as a reminder of the complex and often controversial nature of the Visiting Forces Agreement.