By William Casis

Sen. Imee Marcos warned the Philippines could lose custody of U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal and homicide convict Joseph Scott Pemberton if the government cancels the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

The VFA gives the Philippines legal jurisdiction over American military personnel who commit crimes under the country’s laws.

“The Philippines would lose its authority on the criminal cases if this happened,” stressed Marcos.

If there’s no VFA, Marcos said, jurisdiction will go back to the international law and the law of the foreigner’s country of origin will prevail.

The U.S. may demand that Pemberton be freed before he could serve his minimum jail sentence, if the VFA is ended before December 2021 or less than six years after his conviction, Marcos explained.

Pemberton was convicted and sentenced to six to 12 years in prison on December 1, 2015 for the 2014 motel killing of trans-gender Jennifer Laude.

Pemberton is detained at Camp Aguinaldo under the watch of Philippine and American military personnel and is appealing his conviction on the grounds of self-defense.

Instead of junking the VFA, Marcos said the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) should be ended because it allows the US military to skirt the constitutional ban on foreign bases in the Philippines and makes the country a potential target of America’s adversaries.

Amid tensions in the Middle East and the South China Sea, the EDCA binds the country to hosting U.S. military troops and storing their defense equipment, Marcos added.