Monday, October 24, 2016

Q and A with US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone: The case of Michael Meiring: Is it the fault of the United States?

From MindaNews (Mar 1, 2005): Q and A with US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone:
The case of Michael Meiring: Is it the fault of the United States?

“Is it the fault of the United States?,” US Ambassador to Manila Francis Ricciardone asked.

His government, he said, was “officially” informed about the criminal charges filed against American national Michael Terence Meiring only in January 2005.

Meiring, who nearly lost his life when a bomb exploded inside his hotel room on May 16, 2002, was “spirited out” of the Davao Doctors’ Hospital three days later, by what Mayor Rodrigo Duterte referred to as “arrogant” agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Q. The mayor’s complaint (in May 2002) was also addressed to you… that Meiring was whisked away by FBI agents..

 A. You know what? There’s been too much nonsense reported about this case. Let me tell you what we know about it.(explains how they sent a consular officer to look after Meiring. Ricciardone said Meiring left on a “medical evac.”) ..This was open in the light of day. This was not surreptitious.

There were no criminal charges filed at all, we were in touch with the police and at no time (was it) suggested (that) he was under criminal investigation or that he was under arrest or should be arrested….Had there been any kind of criminal investigation, our role would have been limited to getting him a lawyer..

We have no interest, none, in helping Americans evade the law. On the contrary, we warn Americans .. when you’re traveling abroad you are subject to the host country’s laws. We cannot protect you, we will not protect you. And there are are 34 American citizens in Filipino prison now.. from immigration charges to murder…

Q. As the mayor said, he (Meiring) was whisked away by the FBI…

A. No. No. That’s simply false.

Q. That’s what he said..

 A. Well, he’s misinformed. I’ve never had a conversation with the mayor on this. I’d be delighted to do so… The facts are out there… We have told the Secretary of Justice we will cooperate. Any charges on this man, please tell us. He was in the country for 12 days…From bombing to departure, he stayed 12 days. He was not whisked out of the country in the dark of night and put on an airplane to the United States.

Q. He was whisked out on the 19th, on the 3rd day of his hospitalization

 A. He was bleeding to death. On advice of doctors, he was moved to the hospital.. Where he was going was well known (a Manila hospital). … The hospital here knew where he was going. The police showed no interest in him as far as we knew. At least the police never contacted us, never contacted him, no policeman ever showed up to arrest him. As far as we know, no court pressed charges. When all this stuff came out in the newspapers, we kept asking: are there any charges against this guy?

Q. The charges were filed after the 19th

 A. The charges were filed, we found out in January of this year.

Q. They were filed in May (2002), about two or three days after he left.

 A. After we’ve asked repeatedly are there charges against this guy… in January 2005, we were finally told, on this date, in this place in Davao… I recall in June, after he had left the country, charges were filed. And these charges were never (officially) communicated to us. Never. Never.
Check. You google this. Check on your newspaper. .. media….There was never even a media report on court charges against this guy.

Q. There was.

 A. Not that we saw.

Q. There were charges already filed.

 A. You have a date and specific charges?

Q. Reckless imprudence and illegal possession of explosives. (The mayor wanted him for arson, too)

 A. Could be.but we never even read about it in the media. Maybe in the local media … And more to the point. No communication on official basis (was sent us). We asked, we went back to the Department of Justice, all this stuff in the media, do you have charges on this guy and they never would even tell us until January 2005.

Q. The warrants of arrest were issued in June 2002. But he was already out when the warrants were issued.

 A. He went through the Bureau of Immigration….

Q. In short, he can’t be brought back here?

 A. In short, we have a mutual legal assistance treaty. If there are court charges against him as we found out a month ago, in January after repeatedly asking your department of Justice… we were informed of the court charges.

Q. In fact, the (cases) were archived precisely because the warrants were not served

 A. Why were they not served?

Q. Because he was gone and nobody knew where he was…'

A. But the Bureau of Immigration knew where he was because he was properly stamped out of the country. This is your government. We don’t run this country, my dear. This is not our Bureau of Immigration.

Q. Can’t he be brought back? You said there is a mutual legal

 A. Legal assistance treaty. When there are charges against our citizens in each other’s country, there is a proper procedure from your department of justice to our embassy and from our department of justice to your embassy in Washington…. Now whether he will be extradited, I don’t know how it works. I don’t know how the charges work and all that but we’re following up right now because only three weeks ago, did we, after repeatedly asking, get the statement on the filing of charges against this man. In our system, we cannot use newspaper reports that a mayor is angry and arrest somebody because the mayor is angry in a foreign country and I don’t think that will happen in your country, either…

Q. The US Embassy had to ask the (Philippine) Department of Justice?

 A. … I wrote.. Mr. Secretary, give us all the information you got… we’ll do everything we can….. What are the charges? What evidences.. what would you like us to do exactly? If we talk about extradition, then ask us for extradition in the well-known way. You don’t ask extradition through the newspapers (laughs) in relation to states. We are finally dealing officially on this. But we have strenuously sought to do this the right way. Through proper procedure.

Q. After three years?

 A. Yeah. But ask yourself. Is it the fault of the United States that US Embassy had to ask (and) was given(copy of) the charges against this man two and a half years after it happened?

Q. Who got him out of Davao?

 A. American consular officers…. And you bet we try to get the medical care as soon as we can.. . but we don’t slip them out.

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