- Title: PHILIPPINES: Demonstrators burn U.S. flag in Manila protest
- Date: 17th January 2006
- Summary: VARIOUS OF PROTESTERS SETTING PAPER AMERICAN FLAG ON FIRE AND CHANTING
- Reuters ID: LVABQ301HF4MLK6MB44P2VTQBYXG
- Location: Philippines
- Country: Philippines
- Duration: 00:00:20
- Topics: International Relations,Domestic Politics
- Story Text: A handful of angry demonstrators chanted anti-American slogans and burned the American flag outside the embassy in Manila on Tuesday (January 17) to protest against a refusal by U.S authorities to hand over custody of four Marines accused of raping a Filipino woman.
In a written statement, the embassy rejected arrest warrants issued by a Philippines court for the soldiers, saying they will retain custody of the men "until completion of all judicial proceedings" against them as stated in the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement that both countries have signed.
Government officials and many legal experts say the VFA takes precedence in the event of a conflict with Philippine law.
But the Department of Foreign Affairs had argued that the case was "extraordinary", and should be subject to local law.
Demonstrators from the League of Filipino Students called on the government to prosecute the servicemen locally and break security ties with the U.S.
"We are calling on the government to, one, arrest the four US Marines, junk the Visiting Forces Agreement and stop all US military exercises that is supposed, that is going to happen this month, this next months," said the League's National Chairperson, Venzor Crisostomo.
Executive Judge Renato Dilag of the regional trial court in Olongapo City, who is handling the case, said last week he granted that matters of sovereignty and national pride were part of the case.
But he said, given the legal process in light of the treaty, the government should try to resolve the dispute diplomatically.
The four soldiers charged with rape in late December were among six members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit initially accused of raping the 22-year-old woman in a van at a former U.S. navy base in Subic Bay on Nov.
The Marines, stationed in Okinawa, Japan, had just ended two weeks of military exercises with Philippine troops in October.
In affidavits, five of them disputed the rape allegations, suggesting that sex with one of their group was consensual. Under Philippine law, accomplices can be accused of rape.
Two of the soldiers were cleared for lack of evidence. The Filipino van driver, once seen as a key witness, was charged by prosecutors as an accomplice but no warrant for his arrest has been issued.
The U.S. embassy allowed a group of Philippine officials to check on the four soldiers last week, saying they were being restricted to quarters and had no official working role.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo is expected to take up the case during a visit to Washington this week, although his trip will focus on counter-terrorism.
The Philippines, a former U.S. colony battling Muslim and communist insurgencies, is Washington's closest security partner in Southeast Asia.
Both sides have said the rape case and custody issue, which have not yet inflamed any serious anti-American sentiment, will do nothing to affect those ties.
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