MANILA, Philippines – “Corrupt politicians and their partners-in-crime have a tendency to flee to other countries to escape the long arm of justice. We are making sure that arm is longer and longer.”
Senate foreign relations committee chairperson Miriam Defensor Santiago hailed the Philippines’ extradition treaties with the United Kingdom, Spain, and India as tools to help prosecute fugitives implicated in the pork barrel scam and other crimes.
The Senate concurred with the ratification of the treaties on Tuesday, March 4, after Santiago delivered a sponsorship speech to push for the approval of the long-delayed agreements.
Under an extradition treaty, states agree to surrender to each other any person wanted for prosecution, imposition or enforcement of a criminal sentence in the requesting state for an extraditable offense.
“Let it go! Para ninyo nang awa, paki-concur naman kayo kasi itong mga treaties na ito, noong 2004 pa napirmahan. 2014 na ngayon, 10 years na,” she said. (I beg you, please concur with the ratification of these treaties, which were signed back in 2004. It’s been 10 years.)
The Senate has long deliberated on the 3 treaties but these were not approved in the 15th Congress due to a lack of quorum. Under the Constitution, the vote of at least two-thirds of all senators is needed to make a treaty valid.
The 24-member chamber approved the resolutions with 17 affirmative votes and no abstention and no negative vote. President Benigno Aquino III ratified the treaties on Dec 6, 2013.
Santiago called extradition treaties “the most effective mechanism in obtaining the return of international fugitives in order for them to face the consequences of their criminal actions.”
The senator has been one of the most vocal critics of her colleagues implicated in the pork barrel scam: her fierce rival Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, and senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
The 3 face a plunder complaint for allegedly funneling their pork barrel funds to fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for kickbacks. Some of their co-accused were reported to have fled the Philippines.
Santiago said the flight of rich criminals to other countries to evade prosecution became frequent because of easier and faster means of international travel.
“Criminals will have fewer places to run and hide in once these treaties become effective,” she said.
‘Crucial to fight trafficking, prostitution’
The senator said that the treaties have a retroactive effect, “meaning the Philippines can extradite the plunder criminals if they flee to the UK, Spain, or India even though the plunder was committed before the effectivity of the extradition treaties.”
She said that the Philippines’ extradition treaty with the United States was instrumental in extraditing fugitives Michael Ray Aquino and Cezar Mancao, who were linked to the Dacer-Corbito double murder case.
Santiago said the extradition treaties improved the Philippines’ bilateral ties with the UK, India, and Spain, “particularly in our common fight against criminality.”
She added that concurring with the ratification of the treaties fulfills the Philippines’ international obligations under agreements like the Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, which requires state parties to strengthen cooperation in extradition, mutual legal assistance, and law enforcement.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said that besides the pork barrel scam, the extradition treaties are crucial to government’s campaign against child trafficking and prostitution.
Drilon cited the British-led international police operation across 14 countries that busted a pedophile ring preying on Filipino children. He said the cooperation of the Philippine police with their global counterparts could have been improved had Manila approved the treaty earlier.
“With the extradition treaties with Britain, Spain, and India in place, we would be able to fully coordinate with their administrative and security agencies, resulting in the much more efficient rule of law against criminals,” Drilon said in a statement.
How about death penalty?
Before the Senate approved the treaties, Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III asked Santiago how to deal with cases where the requesting state has a death penalty, which was abolished in the Philippines.
Sotto is pushing to revive the death penalty for heinous crimes.
Santiago said: “Our law will predominate over the law of the other state. Under extradition law, we will be justified under international law to refuse to extradite the person because of the death penalty. We may refuse and it can’t accuse us of violating international law.”
The legal expert added, “There is no provision in international law on whether there is duty or no duty to extradite. It all depends on the will of the state. We are completely free to do what we want to do.”
The Philippines has extradition treaties with Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, South Korea, Micronesia, Switzerland, Thailand, and the United States.
It is proposing negotiations with Austria, Belgium, Brazil, France, Iran, Israel, Jamaica, Peru, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, and Vietnam. – Rappler.com
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