Thursday, December 3, 2015

VFA; confinement/detention vs. custody; G.R. No. 175888

See - G.R. No. 175888

Read: Nicolas v. Romulo, GR 175888, Feb. 11, 2009.

"x x x.

Applying, however, the provisions of VFA, the Court finds that there is a different treatment when it comes to detention as against custody. The moment the accused has to be detained, e.g., after conviction, the rule that governs is the following provision of the VFA:

Article V
Criminal Jurisdiction

x x x
Sec. 10. The confinement or detention by Philippine authorities of United States personnel shall be carried out in facilities agreed on by appropriate Philippines and United States authorities. United States personnel serving sentences in the Philippines shall have the right to visits and material assistance.

It is clear that the parties to the VFA recognized the difference between custody during the trial and detention after conviction, because they provided for a specific arrangement to cover detention. And this specific arrangement clearly states not only that the detention shall be carried out in facilities agreed on by authorities of both parties, but also that the detention shall be by Philippine authorities. Therefore, the Romulo-Kenney Agreements of December 19 and 22, 2006, which are agreements on the detention of the accused in the United States Embassy, are not in accord with the VFA itself because such detention is not by Philippine authorities.

Respondents should therefore comply with the VFA and negotiate with representatives of the United States towards an agreement on detention facilities under Philippine authorities as mandated by Art. V, Sec. 10 of the VFA.

Next, the Court addresses the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in Medellin v. Texas ( 552 US ___ No. 06-984, March 25, 2008), which held that treaties entered into by the United States are not automatically part of their domestic law unless these treaties are self-executing or there is an implementing legislation to make them enforceable.

On February 3, 2009, the Court issued a Resolution, thus:

G.R. No. 175888 (Suzette Nicolas y Sombilon v. Alberto Romulo, et al.); G.R. No. 176051 (Jovito R. Salonga, et al. v. Daniel Smith, et al.); and G.R. No. 176222 (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan [BAYAN], et al. v. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al.).

The parties, including the Solicitor General, are required to submit within three (3) days a Comment/Manifestation on the following points:

1.                  What is the implication on the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement of the recent US Supreme Court decision in Jose Ernesto Medellin v. Texas, dated March 25, 2008, to the effect that treaty stipulations that are not self-executory can only be enforced pursuant to legislation to carry them into effect; and that, while treaties may comprise international commitments, they are not domestic law unless Congress has enacted implementing statutes or the treaty itself conveys an intention that it be self-executory and is ratified on these terms?

2.                  Whether the VFA is enforceable in the US as domestic law, either because it is self-executory or because there exists legislation to implement it.

3.                  Whether the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty of August 30, 1951 was concurred in by the US Senate and, if so, is there proof of the US Senate advice and consent resolution? Peralta, J., no part.

After deliberation, the Court holds, on these points, as follows:

First, the VFA is a self-executing Agreement, as that term is defined in Medellin itself, because the parties intend its provisions to be enforceable, precisely because the Agreement is intended to carry out obligations and undertakings under the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty. As a matter of fact, the VFA has been implemented and executed, with the US faithfully complying with its obligation to produce L/CPL Smith before the court during the trial.

Secondly, the VFA is covered by implementing legislation, namely, the Case-Zablocki Act, USC Sec. 112(b), inasmuch as it is the very purpose and intent of the US Congress that executive agreements registered under this Act within 60 days from their ratification be immediately implemented. The parties to these present cases do not question the fact that the VFA has been registered under the Case-Zablocki Act.

In sum, therefore, the VFA differs from the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the Avena decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), subject matter of the Medellin decision. The Convention and the ICJ decision are not self-executing and are not registrable under the Case-Zablocki Act, and thus lack legislative implementing authority.

Finally, the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty was advised and consented to by the US Senate on March 20, 1952, as reflected in the US Congressional Record, 82nd Congress, Second Session, Vol. 98 Part 2, pp. 2594-2595.

The framers of the Constitution were aware that the application of international law in domestic courts varies from country to country.

As Ward N. Ferdinandusse states in his Treatise, DIRECT APPLICATION OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL LAW IN NATIONAL COURTS, some countries require legislation whereas others do not.

It was not the intention of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, in adopting Article XVIII, Sec. 25, to require the other contracting State to convert their system to achieve alignment and parity with ours. It was simply required that the treaty be recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State. With that, it becomes for both parties a binding international obligation and the enforcement of that obligation is left to the normal recourse and processes under international law.

Furthermore, as held by the US Supreme Court in Weinberger v. Rossi,[13] an executive agreement is a treaty within the meaning of that word in international law and constitutes enforceable domestic law vis--vis the United States. Thus, the US Supreme Court in Weinberger enforced the provisions of the executive agreement granting preferential employment to Filipinos in the US Bases here.

Accordingly, there are three types of treaties in the American system:

1.                 Art. II, Sec. 2 treaties These are advised and consented to by the US Senate in accordance with Art. II, Sec. 2 of the US Constitution.

2.                 ExecutiveCongressional Agreements: These are joint agreements of the President and Congress and need not be submitted to the Senate.

3.                 Sole Executive Agreements. These are agreements entered into by the President. They are to be submitted to Congress within sixty (60) days of ratification under the provisions of the Case-Zablocki Act, after which they are recognized by the Congress and may be implemented.

As regards the implementation of the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty, military aid or assistance has been given under it and this can only be done through implementing legislation. The VFA itself is another form of implementation of its provisions.

WHEREFORE, the petitions are PARTLY GRANTED, and the Court of Appeals Decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 97212 dated January 2, 2007 is MODIFIED. The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States, entered into on February 10, 1998, is UPHELD as constitutional, but the Romulo-Kenney Agreements of December 19 and 22, 2006 are DECLARED not in accordance with the VFA, and respondent Secretary of Foreign Affairs is hereby ordered to forthwith negotiate with the United States representatives for the appropriate agreement on detention facilities under Philippine authorities as provided in Art. V, Sec. 10 of the VFA, pending which the status quoshall be maintained until further orders by this Court.

The Court of Appeals is hereby directed to resolve without delay the related matters pending therein, namely, the petition for contempt and the appeal of L/CPL Daniel Smith from the judgment of conviction.
x x x."