MANILA, NOVEMBER 21, 2003  (STAR) By Marvin Sy - US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone sees nothing wrong with the extradition treaty between the Philippines and the United States, despite the failure of Filipino authorities to bring back for trial American Rod Lauren Strunk, principal suspect in the two year-old Nida Blanca murder case.

"Every time your government presents a good case to an American court and wins, we stand up and cheer," he said.

"Every time you present a case and loses, we feel we’ve lost because it’s two executive branches working together to get strong cases in each other’s courts."

Ricciardone told reporters the treaty is an "excellent one" in response to allegations of its "lopsided implementation" in favor of the US government.

He said it "basically places" the executive branches of the Philippines and the US on one side, and the accused on the other side that the result of the request for extradition carries "the same reaction" from the two governments.

The US government always seeks the advice of the Philippines on how to strengthen its cases before the local courts, and the same courtesy is accorded to the Philippine government, he added.

However, Ricciardone said the decision of a US judge to deny the extradition request for Strunk should be respected although it is considered a loss for both the Philippines and the US.

He does not know whether the case could be appealed, but the US government will support any move of the Philippines to appeal the ruling, Ricciardone added.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy denied yesterday a newspaper report that it had sent a letter to Malacañang denying the visa application of ousted President Joseph Estrada.

"That report is false," the embassy said in its website.

"The embassy sent no such letter. The Manila story in question contained numerous fabrications that it reported as the basis for the US embassy refusal to issue a visa to former President Estrada. These allegations are also false," it said.

On the case of Filipinos facing criminal charges who wish to travel abroad, the embassy said, "Our understanding is that those facing criminal charges in the Filipino justice system generally are ineligible to travel abroad under Philippine law. We respect your law and your courts."

On whether Estrada will be issued a visa if the Sandiganbayan permits him to travel to the US for medical treatment, the embassy said it does not consider hypothetical cases.

"Any Filipino citizen who wishes to enter the US must hold a valid visa, and all visa applicants, whatever their rank or station, must meet the requirements of US visa law," the embassy said.

"The same law applies to everyone, and there is no room for outside influence in visa decisions."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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