Rape, Human Trafficking, Gov’t Neglect – the Travails of Okinawa Rape Victim Hazel

An investigation led by GWP Representative Liza Maza on the plight of Okinawa rape victim Hazel discovered that she was a victim three times over: of rape, human trafficking, and of government neglect.

Volume VIII, No. 25, July 27-August 2, 2008

It is an all-too-familiar story of an OFW who was lured by promises of a decent job abroad only to be herded to a different country without proper travel documents, and forced to work as a virtual slave and prisoner. To complete the story, when the OFW is already in a situation of distress, the Filipino community and migrants’ rights advocates come to the rescue while Philippine consulate and embassy officials claim that they cannot do anything and when pressured to give assistance, it always arrives too late. But this story is worse, this OFW was raped by a soldier of the US armed forces.

(Photo by Ronalyn V.Olea / bulatlat.com)

The investigation of a five-member team led by Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Representative Liza Maza on the plight of Okinawa rape victim Hazel discovered that not only was Hazel a victim of rape by Sgt. Ronald Edward Hopstock Jr. of 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment in a hotel in Okinawa, Feb. 18; she was also a victim of human trafficking and of indifference by Philippine consulate officials.

The team went to Okinawa on July 16. For five days, a series of dialogues ensued with Philippine consulate and Japanese government officials, Hazel’s lawyer and anti-US bases advocates and organizations. They were also able to talk to Hazel and to her custodian lengthily.

In an interview, Lana Linaban, deputy secretary general of GABRIELA and member of the Okinawa mission, said that Hazel was indeed raped and the “Philippine government officials in Okinawa clearly neglected her.”

Negligence and indifference

Linaban said that Hazel had no lawyer during the investigation of the rape case filed at the Naha District Public Prosecutor’s Office. She said a lawyer was later provided by the Philippine consulate in Okinawa but it was too late as the counsel began working on the case a mere three days before the last hearing.

Linaban related that since Day 1, Hazel has made it clear that she will fight. “She told the Philippine consulate that she needed a lawyer,” said Linaban. But apparently her request was ignored.

The hearings transpired on May 1, 8, 12 and 15. It was only around May 13 when the lawyer sent by the consulate worked on the case. On May 16, the court dismissed the case for ‘insufficient evidence.’ The Okinawa police submitted a 2,000-page of report to the prosecutor.

Linaban disclosed that in a dialogue, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reasoned out that the lawyer was intended for the trial. “Aminado silang wala nang silbi ang abogado. Na-dismiss ang kaso.” (They admitted that the lawyer would no longer be of help as the case has already been dismissed.)

Linaban said that no Philippine government representative attended Hazel’s hearings. Hazel was accompanied by her custodian, Fr. Rommel Cruz, members of the Okinawa police and the translator provided by the consulate.

Linaban said the prosecutor commented that there were inconsistencies in Hazel’s testimony. Linaban said that Hazel was not sure if the interpreter provided to her by the Philippine consulate efficiently translated her statements.
Hazel’s lawyer, Linaban added, does not speak English. She said, “They could not understand each other.”

Linaban criticized the Philippine consulate for not doing any legal or diplomatic action after the dismissal of the case.

Linaban said that during the team’s dialogue with Philippine Consul General Sulpicio Confiado, the latter’s standard answer was “I will check on it.”

She added that Honorary Consul Ako Alarcon of the Philippine consulate in Okinawa blamed Cruz for ‘grabbing custody of Hazel.’ Linaban said, “Kaya wala na raw silang alam.” (That is why, they claimed, they knew nothing about the case since then.)

Linaban related that the Filipino priest volunteered to sponsor the extension of Hazel’s visa which expired after the hearing. The Philippine consulate, she said, made no move to extend her visa.

In an interview, Nanay Mely, Hazel’s mother, said that the Philippine consulate wanted her daughter to just go home. Nanay Mely said that Hazel pleaded for her passport.

Alarcon, Linaban said, also told them that attending to Hazel’s case is not within her functions. “Trade lang daw ang sa kanya. Sa Philippine Embassy sa Tokyo raw ang labor.” (She said she just deals with trade-related matters. The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo is supposedly in charge of labor-related concerns.)

Linaban related that the Philippine government did not bother to provide temporary shelter for Hazel. She said that the Okinawa police investigators took Hazel to a Japanese shelter house but the maximum stay is only two months. Hazel was then transferred to a nun’s convent and later referred to Cruz, a Filipino Catholic priest in Okinawa.

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