Admittedly, the touchy issue of custody is the focal point in the Laude murder case, because the primary suspect is an American soldier, Private First Class (PFC) Joseph Scott Pemberton, and, as such, is subject to the custody provisions of the VFA. Currently, Pemberton is being detained in Camp Aguinaldo, but he remains under U.S. custody.
Reading the VFA's text, it appears that section 6 of Article V is the pertinent part for the custody issue:
The custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings. United States military authorities shall, upon formal notification by the Philippine authorities and without delay, make such personnel available to those authorities in time for any investigative or judicial proceedings relating to the offense with which the person has been charged. In extraordinary cases, the Philippine Government shall present its position to the United States Government regarding custody, which the United States Government shall take into full account. In the event Philippine judicial proceedings are not completed within one year, the United States shall be relieved of any obligations under this paragraph. The one year period will not include the time necessary to appeal. Also, the one year period will not include any time during which scheduled trial procedures are delayed because United States authorities, after timely notification by Philippine authorities to arrange for the presence of the accused, fail to do so.I'm not sure why American military authorities retain custody; perhaps some of my friends who are more legally-inclined can explain it to me. Maybe it's for the protection of the personnel who is involved, or maybe it's to protect American security; being part of the military, it's very possible that the person could be privy to military secrets.
Whatever the reason, at this point, the U.S. has shown that it is cooperating with the Philippine government, and, hopefully, it will continue to cooperate until the trial has been resolved. In the meantime, Pemberton cools his heels in his detention facility in Camp Aguinaldo, as he awaits trial. For the sake of Jennifer Laude, here's hoping that our justice system works swiftly to decide the case.
At the same time, those calling for the scrapping of the VFA should note, as Dean Bocobo of Philippine Commentary noted on his Facebook feed, "if we unilaterally abrogated the VFA today then tomorrow the US could legally remove the accused from the Philippines as the US would have no legal obligation then to hold him in custody for trial under Philippine jurisdiction." Bocobo goes on further to observe that "Abrogating the VFA would be the surest, quickest way to PREVENT Justice being done for Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude."
It's something the leftists, Senator Defensor-Santiago, and other anti-VFA advocates should chew on.