Arrest warrants to be issued soon vs US Marines--Palace
By Agence France-Presse

WARRANTS of arrest against four US Marines accused of rape are expected to be issued soon, Malacaņang said Monday.

The government was "determined to pursue justice" for the 22-year-old Filipina who accused the men of raping her on November 1, presidential spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said.

"Philippine sovereignty and criminal justice shall be upheld in all stages," Bunye said in a statement, following local media reports that the US government would seek to continue having custody of the suspects or might allow some of them to slip out of the country.

"Philippine sovereignty is firm as we anticipate the issuance of the warrant of arrest against the suspects, which will mark the inception of the trial," Bunye said without giving a date.

Six Marines were originally named as suspects, but after a lengthy preliminary investigation the justice department said only four were found to have allegedly committed the crime.

They are in the custody of the US embassy.

The rape allegedly took place shortly after the Marines joined large-scale joint exercises with their Filipino counterparts in the former US Naval base of Subic, north of Manila.

The case is being closely followed in this former American colony, with activists saying it has triggered bitter memories of past abuses.

The Americans colonized the country for nearly 50 years, taking over from the Spanish who ceded the country in 1898.
The American military presence only ended in 1992, when the last US troops left the port of Subic after the Senate rejected a renewal of base lease agreements.

No American soldier charged with rape or any other crime has ever been convicted by a Philippine court and authorities say the new case will test the provisions of the visiting forces agreement (VFA).

The VFA is a treaty that gives a certain degree of immunity to American soldiers taking part in joint maneuvers here. Bunye acknowledged that the rape case "may indeed be a test of some provisions of the VFA" but stressed it should not affect long-term ties.

"It should not be a test of our time-honored friendship with the United States," he said.