Members of the women’s groups Gabriela and Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) picketed the U.S. Embassy in Manila Nov. 5 to condemn the rape of a 22-year-old Filipina in Subic, Zambales (138 kms. north of Manila) by six U.S. Marine servicemen on Nov. 1. They demanded the pull-out of U.S. troops from the Philippines and called on the government to take custody of the six servicemen.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Members of the women’s groups Gabriela and Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) picketed the U.S. Embassy in Manila Nov. 5 to condemn the rape of a 22-year-old Filipina in Subic, Zambales (138 kms. north of Manila) by six U.S. Marine servicemen four days before. They demanded the pull-out of U.S. troops from the Philippines and called on the government to take custody of the six servicemen.
The six suspects – Keith Silkwood, Daniel Smith, Albert Lara, Dominic Duplantis, Corey Barris and Chad Carpenter – have been participating in the past few months in the joint Philippine-U.S. Balikatan military exercises in the former American naval base. They are presently under the custody of the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
Initial findings from Subic police show that the victim, a college graduate from Zamboanga taking a vacation in Subic, was at a karaoke bar Nov. 1 when she met the six suspects, who reportedly took her with them into a rented van. An eyewitness saw her a few hours later being dumped on the road, unconscious, only wearing panties, from a van.
A medico-legal examination confirmed the woman was raped.
“When a Filipina is defiled of her honor in her own country by a foreign military visitor, there should be no doubt nor delay in assessing that this is an issue of particular importance and national interest,” said Cristina Palabay, GWP secretary-general. “The Philippine government should immediately get custody of the suspects and assume full and decisive jurisdiction on the case.”
“Why shouldn’t they be paraded like those suspects they are wont to present in Malacañang every now and then?” Palabay added. “This is clearly a heinous act and they should be surfaced, arrested and kept in the custody of Philippine authorities, given no special treatment, and prosecuted in our courts. We must at all times assert our sovereignty in attaining full justice for a Filipino woman who has been defiled.”
Meanwhile, an ecumenical women’s organization has also reacted to the rape by calling, among other things, for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
In a statement, the Ecumenical Women’s Forum (EWF) condemned the rape as “another display of gross disrespect, contempt and machismo” by visiting U.S. military forces. “The rape of one woman is not a rape of only one woman, but a completely dishonorable offense against the whole nation!” the EWF statement read. “It is an act of terror against the people!”
The EWF called for an investigation of the case, and demanded the abrogation of the VFA. “It is not enough that the criminal justice provisions of the VFA be applied in this case,” the EWF statement read. “While the trial is going on, all US troops must go and the VFA abrogated. There should never be a second round of rape and abuse!”
The VFA, an agreement that grants extraterritorial and extrajudicial “rights” to US servicemen visiting the Philippines for military “exercises,” was approved in 1999 by a Senate then dominated by allies of former President Joseph Estrada.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was then vice president, was among the proponents of the VFA. Three years later, she would also approve the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA), which allows U.S. troops to bring military equipment and supplies into the country from any point.
Both the VFA and the MLSA have been opposed by cause-oriented groups and nationalists as affronts against Philippine sovereignty. In one of his last columns before his death in 1999, the nationalist historian and social critic Renato Constantino hit the VFA for turning the country into a “huge military base.”
U.S. servicemen stationed in the Philippines, particularly during the times that the country hosted American military bases, have been known to be involved in rapes and murders of Filipinos. The suspects have invariably been able to escape Philippine justice through the influence of the U.S. government.
Arroyo “also accountable”
In a related development, the Artists for the Removal of Gloria (ARREST Gloria), a broad alliance of artists calling for the ouster of Arroyo and the institutionalization of reforms beyond a constitutional succession, assailed the President for her “deafening silence” on the incident.
Macapagal-Arroyo has not issued a statement on the issue. In contrast, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez have both gone on record as expressing support for efforts at investigating and prosecuting the case.
“The perpetrators of this heinous crime shall be brought to justice,” said Romulo. Meanwhile, Gonzalez said that the U.S. Embassy would have to present the suspects once a case is filed against them in court.
“While whether the two Cabinet secretaries will live up to their seemingly bold statements still remains to be seen and there is definitely a lot more that they could have said,” the ARREST Gloria statement read, “it is disgusting that two underlings have beaten President Arroyo to the draw in issuing statements on this crime by foreigners against one of our own.”
“President Arroyo, who calls herself Ina ng Bayan (people’s mother) every chance she gets, carries the biggest responsibility in this issue – having aggressively promoted the Balikatan military exercises which brought the six rapists to this country in the first place,” the ARREST Gloria statement further read.
ARREST Gloria – whose members include musicians Lourd de Veyra, Bobby Balingit, and Dong Abay, the worker-based musical group Tambisan sa Sining, multi-media group Southern Tagalog Exposure, and the poetry group Kilometer 64 among others – also took the U.S. government to task for “abandoning” the Philippines during its “most trying moments” despite expressed commitments to defending the Philippines militarily. It cited the large-scale evacuation of U.S. troops from the Philippines just as the Japanese Imperial Army had begun attacks in World War II, as well as the U.S. government’s refusal to commit military aid to the Philippines in the 1990s when its claim on the Kalayaan Reef of the Spratly Islands was under threat from China – despite the existence of a Mutual Defense Treaty.
“This is the kind of President we now have in Malacañang – a President who chooses to uphold a farcical RP-U.S. military alliance at the expense of the dignity of a fellow Filipina – all while maintaining a presidency reacquired in the last election by fraudulent means and driving the people into deeper and deeper penury by the day,” the ARREST Gloria statement further read. “The country has no need for this kind of President.” (Bulatlat.com)Visii