MANILA - The United States denied having “shaky” security commitments with the Philippines in the case of involving US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, with the US maintaining custody of the American serviceman.
US Ambassador Philip Goldberg stressed the US commitment to the Philippines is very strong and has been demonstrated “both in word and fact.”
He said the US has “led very strong diplomatic support” for the Philippines in issues on the South China Sea and the case brought by Manila before the United Nations tribunal without taking a position on maritime claims.
“I think our support for Philippine security is clear. It has been demonstrated in both word and fact. So nobody should question our commitment to the Philippine security,” Goldberg told reporters in an interview at the US Embassy on Friday.
Goldberg said the US security commitment to the Philippines, as expressed by President Barack Obama during his visit to Manila last April, is “ironclad.”
“We exercise together all the time. We entered into EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement). We’ve been working for many years with the Philippines on counterterrorism issues,” he added.
Former senator Joker Arroyo said the Pemberton custody issue has shown the US’s shaky security commitments and lack of faith in the Philippines’ justice system.
“Predictably, the US immediately protects the US servicemen. If the US cannot even protect Filipino women from US servicemen, how can Filipinos rely on the US to live up to her commitments embodied in the treaties or agreements they have with us,” Arroyo said.
Arroyo also urged his former colleagues at the Senate to consider the US response to the Pemberton case in gauging the depth of US commitment to support the Philippines in higher security-related missions.
The retired lawmaker also supported calls for a review of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the EDCA.
According to Goldberg, the US has been transparent in cooperating with the Philippines on the case of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, allegedly killed by Pemberton, who is detained at Camp Aguinaldo.
“We’ve been as transparent as possible in terms of cooperation we’ve given. This case may not have been solved as quickly or as effectively without our cooperation, and that’s an important point,” Goldberg said.
“It’s our obligation obviously under VFA but it’s also our instinct, because our instinct is to pursue justice and most people who know the US and the US military would agree with that proposition,” he said.
Goldberg said the US has been engaged in talks on the VFA to clarify various aspects, including ambiguous provisions, but he made clear it has to be joint clarification and mutually agreed upon.
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