As expected, the Philippine Court of Appeals (CA) provided the legal fig leaf for the continued stay of Marine Cpl. Daniel Smith, convicted rapist, in the U.S. Embassy compound while his appeal is pending.
Smith was the subject of a recent diplomatic tug-of-war between Philippine judicial authorities and the U.S. over his detention in a local jail. Bowing to American pressure, he was subsequently handed over to embassy officials by the Arroyo government.
While the CA ostensibly upheld the decision of the trial court for Smith to be held at the Makati City Jail, it declared its respect for the authority of the executive branch, “as a co-equal branch of government”, to enter into an agreement with the U.S. Embassy over Smith’s custody. The matter has therefore become moot and academic.
In the words of the Court: “We are confronted with the latest agreement executed between Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and US Ambassador Kristie Kenny who are authorized signatories to bind state parties to an agreement conformably with the wise observation that the other branches of government are equally the ultimate guardian of the liberties and welfare of the people. We resolve to consider the matter moot and terminated.” In short, he stays at the Embassy.
The supporters of “Nicole”, the rape victim, will foam and froth at the mouth but the CA ruling has put the issue to rest for the time being.
Notably, no widespread anti-American sentiments have been generated by this case, despite spirited efforts by certain “progressive” groups to make political hay from the incident. There will be some organized street protests and flag-burning but this will soon die down. And who knows ? With his top-notch (and expensive) legal team, Smith might even get his conviction reversed. Stranger things have happened. This is the Philippines, after all.