Fugitives and extradition – Katrina Legarda

Posted at 06/17/09 2:01 AM

Wow, can’t believe that the issue of changing our Constitution has become so important to people. I hope it means that a 1973 will not happen ever again.

For those who were not born then, in 1973, after Marcos declared martial law, he had to have the Constitution, drafted by a Constitutional Convention (but, of course, tweaked by him) ratified at a plebiscite. According to my Constitutional Law professor (the late Professor Fernandez), the Mayors and Governors everywhere merely called for town meetings and asked the people who attended, “Who wants a Coke?” The hands raised ratified the 1973 Constitution.

We had better be vigilant. I am sure today it will not just be Coca-Cola that will be offered.

Also in the news is the return of Cesar Mancao. He returned after the Philippine Government requested his extradition. Mancao’s return was made voluntarily by him, I think, under Article 14 of the Extradition Treaty we have with the United States Government. Article 14 says: If the person sought consents in writing to surrender to the Requesting State, the Requested State may surrender the person as expeditiously as possible without further proceedings.

What is EXTRADITION? Presidential Decree Number 1069, otherwise known as the "Philippine Extradition Law,” prescribes the procedure for the extradition of persons who have committed crimes in a foreign country. The law states the policy that “the suppression of crime is the concern not only of the state where it is committed but also of any other state to which the criminal may have escaped, because it saps the foundation of social life and is an outrage upon humanity at large, and it is in the interest of civilized communities that crimes should not go unpunished.” When PD 1069 came into being in 1977, our country had just signed an extradition treaty with Indonesia. One with the USA was signed only in 1994.

Basically, if you have committed a crime in the USA and you fled to the Philippines and hid out here, the American Government can request that you be returned to America to face the music. If you remember, this is what happened to Mark Jimenez. He was extradited to the U.S. in December 26, 2002. He was convicted by a US court on November 14, 2003 on charges of "conspiracy to commit offenses against U.S. Income Taxes". After he served his sentence (in what was allegedly a plush American jail), Jimenez was deported, and was forced to return to the Philippines two years later. Apparently, once you have been deported, you can no longer return to America.

The Philippine Government, on the other hand, also requested the extradition of Rod Strunk, the alleged murderer of Nida Blanca. That extradition case failed because the US Court did not find “probable cause”, apparently, against Rod Strunk. (Or so I gathered from the newspaper reports at that time.)

You can only be extradited if the offense you commit is punishable as such in both countries. Murder is murder anywhere you live, for example. As is evading income tax. What happens is that the country in which you committed the crime (let us say, America) will file a murder case against you. Then, because you are found in the Philippines, America will send a request for your extradition. The request is made to the Department of Foreign Affairs, which will then pass the same on to the Department of Justice. That Department will then file a petition with the Regional Trial Court, requesting your extradition.

The Supreme Court said that upon receipt of a petition for extradition and its supporting documents, the judge must study them and make, as soon as possible, a prima facie finding whether (a) they are sufficient in form and substance, (b) they show compliance with the Extradition Treaty and Law, and (c) the person sought is extraditable. At his discretion, the judge may require the submission of further documentation or may personally examine the witnesses.. If, in spite of this study and examination, no prima facie finding is possible, the petition may be dismissed at the discretion of the judge. Otherwise, the judge will summon you to appear and to answer the petition. The judge can issue a warrant for your immediate arrest, as you are already an “accused.” Then, there will be a hearing, where evidence can be presented by the American government. The court then renders a decision granting the extradition, and giving his reasons “upon showing of the existence of a prima facie case.” Otherwise, it shall dismiss the petition. The hearings are supposed to be summary, that is, fast. You cannot ask for bail in the Philippines because you are not accused of a crime here; you can only ask for bail in America (according to the Supreme Court.) So, in that Jimenez case, the Supreme Court said that he could be detained while the hearings were going on.

Once the decision has become final and executory, you will be “placed at the disposal of the [American] authorities,” and off you return to America for trial on the murder charge. America has to pay for all the costs and expenses [which means that you and I paid for Mancao’s return, including the three NBI agents who went on a junket to pick him up.]

Finally, the Supreme Court intoned: we cannot allow our country to be a haven for fugitives, cowards and weaklings who, instead of facing the consequences of their actions, choose to run and hide.

Ahem….. Am I missing something here?