A new witness to the alleged rape by six U.S. marines of a 22-year old Filipina has emerged. In an exclusive interview with Bulatlat, the witness narrated how an “almost naked woman” from a Starex van was dumped almost in front of her on that fateful night of November 1. She also said an orange condom thrown from the van landed on her foot. If her statement is true, she would be a very valuable prosecution witness because her account corroborates the statements by other witnesses as well as gives credence to the charge of gang rape because of the presence of another condom.
BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
OLONGAPO CITY – She carried with her a tall frosted bottle of Artic Strawberry Vodka placed inside a plastic bag when she met with Bulatlat around 2 p.m. on Nov. 17.
The woman, who was in her early 50s and for security reasons Bulatlat will identify only as Olivia, placed the bottle on the table and said: “Kung makakapagsalita lang ang boteng ito, marami itong maikukwento tungkol sa nangyari sa loob ng van.” (If only this bottle can speak, it will have a lot to say about what happened in the van.)
She was referring to the dark-colored Starex van where six U.S. servicemen allegedly raped a 22-year old Filipina on Nov. 1 in the Subic Bay Freeport. Subic, located some 138 kms. northwest of Manila, is a former U.S. naval base but has continued to host U.S. naval ships after the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) took effect and paved the way for U.S.-RP joint-military exercises.
She said the bottle was almost empty when handed to her by an American wearing a sando (an undershirt). The man, who was on board a van, opened the window and asked her: “You want this?”
Without hesitation, she took the bottle, said “Thank you” and walked away. Little did she know a crime was being committed at that very moment.
Olivia said she went inside the premises of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) in the afternoon of Nov. 1 to gather softdrink and beer cans for her child’s science project.
“Inisip ko na maraming in-cans duon dahil nabalitaan nga namin na may dumating na barko,” (I knew there would be many cans there because we heard that a ship had just docked) she said. The USS Essex carrying U.S. servicemen came to port on Philippine shores for military exercises on Oct. 22 and left Nov. 2, a day after the alleged rape occurred.
Olivia said she was at the vicinity of Neptune when she noticed a dark-colored van playing loud music. She then saw a woman being escorted by some Caucasians to the van.
She could not however say what time it was because she did not have a watch.
“Yung babae, kung maglakad malagihay na,” (The woman was already walking unsteadily) she said.
The van left as soon as the woman and the American servicemen went in, she said.
As Olivia went around the base to gather more cans, she noticed the same van going around the vicinity. It was still playing music too loudly, she said.
When Olivia was by the church near the Legenda Hotel (around 1 km from Neptune), she noticed the same van, this time parked on the street.
While rummaging through a garbage container beside the van, its window suddenly opened and a Caucasian male offered her the bottle. It was then that she was given the tall, frosted bottle of Artic Strawberry Vodka.
After around 20 minutes, Olivia left and van was still there.
Olivia’s search for cans lasted till late in the evening and took her to the trash cans along the boardwalk. To her surprise, the same van stopped right beside the light post beside which she was standing.
Olivia said she saw a naked woman being dumped from the van. She also saw someone from inside the van threw clothes and what she described as “something sticky.”
That sticky thing, which hit Olivia’s left leg before landing on top of her toe was a used condom, said Olivia. “Naku, kabastos!” (How gross) she said and threw the used condom into the wastebasket. She said she remembers the condom was color orange.
Olivia then heard voices inside the van saying, “Just leave her there. Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go! Hurry!”
It was then that the van left hurriedly, she said.
“Nagulat ako. Akala ko patay na yung babae kasi malatang-malata sya,” (I was surprised. I thought the woman was dead because she was limp) she said.
Out of shock, she said she could only stare at the woman at first who pleaded, “Tulungan nyo ako.” (Help me.)
Olivia then noticed that the woman was only wearing panties. “Yung harapan ng panty ay nasa pwet tapos nakalilis pa (The front side of the panty was at the back and was halfway down),” she said while demonstrating how the victim’s panty was rolled down to show her buttocks.
“Tapos, may nakita akong palapit na pulis kaya tumakbo na ako,” (Then I saw a policeman approaching so I ran away)” she said. That was the last time she saw the victim.
“Hindi ako nakatulog nang gabing yun (I was not able to sleep that night),” she said. “Naawa ako sa babae.” (I felt sorry for the girl.)
It was only in the afternoon the next day when she heard in the news about the alleged rape involving six U.S. servicemen. It was only then, she said, that she realized she has witnessed a crime.
“Hindi ko akalain na aabot ito sa ganito (I did not realize that it will come to this),” she said. “Naikwento ko naman sa mga kaibigan ko yung nalalaman ko pero ayoko na sanang masangkot dito sa gulo kaya hindi na ako nagsabi sa pulis, (I have told my friends about what I know but I do not want to get involved in this mess so I did not tell the police)” she added.
But Olivia could not hide her anger at the van driver. “Hayop yung driver na yun. Sa kanya ang manibela pero wala syang ginawa,” (The driver is an animal. He has control of the steering wheel but he did not do anything) she said.
“Wag nya sabihin na wala syang nakita kasi kung may salamin siya sa harap, makikita niya lahat ng nangyari. Busog na ang bulsa nya, busog pa ang mata nya sa kakatingin,” (He cannot claim he saw nothing, his van has a rear view mirror. His pockets would be full and he would also have watched) she said.
She said the driver could just have stopped in front of a group of policemen and told them something was going on inside the van. “Napakaraming pulis nung gabi na yun. May naka-bike, naka-motor, naka-patrol, naglalakad at nakatambay,” (There were so many policemen that night. There were some on bicycles, on motorcycles, some were walking and some were simply standing by) she said.
In a separate interview, human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares, spokesperson of the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL), said Olivia should consider testifying before the courts.
She is a credible witness on two grounds, said the lawyer. First, she has no interest in the case because she is just an ordinary person who witnessed a fact. Second, her fear for her life shows she is not a rehearsed witness, the lawyer said.
Colmenares also said her testimony is “crucial” as it corroborates earlier accounts of the victim and some other witnesses.
“First, that Olivia saw the victim being dumped links the woman to the van,” he said.
“Second, since the woman came from the van and Olivia saw the van surfing around Subic corroborates that the woman was raped while going around the area,” he added.
Third, Colmenares said the second condom (the first condom being the one recovered by police investigators) proves that it was “gang rape.”
“The second condom would further raise the nature of the crime to gang rape because it shows that it was committed by at least two persons,” he said.
However, Colmenares said the crime committed is still considered heinous “whether or not it was only one of them who penetrated the victim.”
The other U.S. servicemen who rode the van could be considered “conspirators.”
“All of them contributed to the crime,” he said. “And that includes the driver.”
Colmenares has not met Olivia but based his comments on this reporter’s account of the interview with the witness.
The human rights lawyer however said there is “something missing”. “I believe the police is keeping something,” he said.
Colmenares said there is a big possibility that the police already had custody of the six U.S. servicemen after the crime had been committed.
He pointed out that nobody could have gotten the full names of the six accused if the police were not able to interview the suspects face-to face.
He said the victim could not have taken all their names because she was drunk. Neither did the driver because nobody registers the full names of his/her companions when renting a vehicle, he added.
A hearing is set at the Olongapo City Municipal Trial Court on Nov. 23.
It took two nights, two days before Olivia agreed to be interviewed. She rejected Bulatlat’s request twice. But after some prodding, she finally agreed to tell what she knew about the biggest rape scandal involving American soldiers to hit the country after the rape case of 12-year old Rosario Baluyot in 1987.
Olivia admitted working as a prostitute during in the 1980s, when the U.S. bases were still here. She agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonymity. (Bulatlat.com)