BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
“Nicole”, the Subic rape victim, has left for the US and terminated the services of her lawyer Evalyn Ursua.
Ursua herself announced this in a forum launching the Junk VFA Movement earlier today in Quezon City, where she spoke with Reps. Liza Maza (Gabriela Women’s Party or GWP), Lorenzo “Erin Tañada III (Quezon, 4th District), and Teofisto Guingona III (Bukidnon, 2nd District); Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement) chairman Elmer Labog; Sens. Jamby Madrigal and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan; former University of the Philippines (UP) Faculty Regent Roland Simbulan; and lawyers Neri Javier Colmenares, Pacifico Agabin, and Harry Roque.
She said that at late afternoon yesterday, “Nicole’s” mother handed her a letter addressed to her, supposedly from “Nicole”.
“The letter is brief,” she said. “It reads that it serves as ‘Nicole’s’ ‘notice of termination of [my] services as [her] counsel in the criminal case against Daniel Smith and ‘all other cases arising from or related to it, ‘which are pending before the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.’ The letter also says thank you ‘for all the time and effort that you have devoted in the prosecution of the case.'”
The Makati City Regional Trial Court, in early December 2006, convicted Smith – a participant in the Balikatan military exercises – of raping “Nicole” in Subic, Zambales and ordered his confinement at the Makati City Jail pending his imprisonment at the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City. However, on Dec. 29, 2006, he was purportedly transferred to a detention facility at the US Embassy in Manila under what is now known as the Romulo-Kenney Agreement.
His case is still pending before the Court of Appeals.
Cause-oriented groups and concerned individuals challenged the legality of Smith’s detention at the US Embassy and the constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) before the Supreme Court. On Feb. 11, the Supreme Court ruled against Smith’s confinement at the US Embassy while at the same time upholding the VFA as constitutional, and ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to begin negotiations with the US Embassy for Smith’s transfer to a Philippine prison facility.
“Nicole” was one of the petitioners in a motion for reconsideration on the Feb. 11 Supreme Court ruling — together with Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), GABRIELA, GWP, and former Sens. Jovito Salonga and Wigberto Tañada.
Passed by the Philippine Senate and signed by then-President Joseph Estrada in 1999, the VFA grants extraterritorial and extrajudicial “rights” to US servicemen visiting the Philippines for military “exercises”.
Ursua said the letter also indicates that copies would be furnished to Smith’s lawyer, Jose Justiniano. “‘Nicole’s’ mother initially told me that she had already furnished Attorney Justiniano a copy of the letter, but when I asked why, she said she has yet to give him a copy,” she said.
She added that when she asked why “Nicole” did not personally hand her the letter, considering that her client was “Nicole” and not her family, she was informed that “Nicole” had left for the US, “for good.”
She said “Nicole’s” mother explained that “Nicole” and the rest of the family are “tired of the case and they do not want anymore to be bothered by it because ‘there is no justice in the Philippines.'”
Ursua said, however, that she remains determined to go on with the fight. “While I have ceased to be Nicole’s lawyer, I, as a citizen who loves this country, remain committed to the cause of obtaining justice in Nicole’s case and putting an end to the iniquitous Visiting Forces Agreement,” she said.
“The ‘Nicole’ that and the other lawyers represented was beyond the woman that Nicole and her family thought she was,” she added. “‘Nicole’ is every Filipino woman who was and will be raped by American soldiers. ‘Nicole’ can happen again. And so the fight against the Visiting Forces Agreement and the presence of US troops in the country must continue.” (Bulatlat.com)