Activists vowed to continue their campaign for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) despite Subic rape victim Nicole’s recantation of her earlier testimony accusing Lance Corporal Daniel Smith of rape.
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and the GABRIELA said that the recantation of ‘Nicole’ of her original testimony serves the interests of the United States and Philippine governments in their bid to preserve the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) amid the intensifying clamor for its abrogation.
In her testimony before the court, Nicole said she was raped by US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith inside a cruising van at the Subic Bay Freeport on Nov. 1, 2005.
On December 4, 2006, Judge Benjamin Pozon of Branch 139 of the Makati Regional Trial Court found Smith guilty of raping Nicole; sentenced him to reclusion perpetua; and committed him temporarily to the Makati City Jail. Smith was later spirited out of jail and transferred to the US embassy compound by virtue of an agreement signed by Foreign Affairs Sec. Alberto Romulo and US Ambassador Kristie Kenney known as the Romulo-Kenney agreement.
Smith was part of a contingent of US Marines participating in the Balikatan war exercises in 2005. The VFA, signed by then President Joseph Estrada on May 27, 1999, was cited by the Romulo-Kenney agreement as the basis for the transfer of Smith.
A recent Supreme Court ruling ordered the transfer of Smith to Philippine custody. Malacañang and US officials, however, maintained that Smith will remain at the US embassy compound pending the decision of the Court of Appeals on the convicted US soldier’s appeal.
Renato M. Reyes, Jr., Bayan secretary general, said, “Sadly, Nicole was a sacrificial lamb in order to preserve US interests. Her recantation should be seen in the context of the US and Arroyo governments’ efforts to preserve the VFA at all cost, even if this means acquitting Smith and totally discrediting the victim Nicole.”
In a separate statement, Emmi de Jesus, GABRIELA secretary general said that Nicole is not the first and will not be the last rape victim to recant. “As a women’s alliance that for 25 years has worked with women victims of violence, we have faced many such situations. The battle for justice, especially in a society as unjust as the Philippines, is never easy. This rings more true when the enemy is not a mere criminal but a symbol of US dominance over the Philippines, and the accomplice to the crime is a Philippine government most servile to the whims of its master,” she said.
Reyes said the latest incident involving Nicole further underscores the ‘fatal flaws’ of the VFA. “Under this grossly unequal pact, it would be almost impossible for victims to truly get swift justice. The protracted nature of the legal process, along with a subservient regime, discourages victims from pursuing their cases. We have only the US and Arroyo governments, and the VFA to blame for what has happened to Nicole,” Reyes added.
“The two governments believe that declaring Smith innocent will make the custody issue moot and will weaken the case against the VFA,” Reyes said further.
De Jesus said, “The victim has always been not just Nicole but the Filipino people. The enemy has always been beyond L/Cpl. Daniel Smith but the United States government and its armed forces. The accomplice has always been more than the three other US soldiers but the puppet Arroyo regime. The fight has always been more than justice for the crime of rape but justice for a people long-subjugated by the imperialist US.”
“The struggle for justice in the Subic rape case has never been just a single Filipino woman’s battle for her dignity. It had, and shall always be, the battle of a people united to reclaim our national dignity,” De Jesus added.
Another protest action is set on March 21 to mark the anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. “On March 21, we will join the rest of the world in calling for a complete reversal of the foreign policies of former US Pres. George W. Bush. If Obama will pull out troops from Iraq, he should do the same for US troops in the Philippines. Obama must give up the VFA and end the Balikatan war games. Otherwise, he will merely be continuing the discredited policies of the hated George W. Bush,” Reyes said.(Bulatlat.com)