BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
The women’s group GABRIELA this morning staged a rally at the Court of Appeals earlier today to demand that the guilty verdict on US Marine L/Cpl. Daniel Smith be affirmed. Members of the women’s group said the recent developments on the Subic rape case are “part of a grand scheme of the US and the Philippine governments to absolve Smith and thwart the growing demand for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).”
The Makati City Regional Trial Court, in early December 2006, convicted Smith – a participant in the Balikatan military exercises – of raping a Filipina 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. On Feb. 11, the Supreme Court ruled against his detention at the US Embassy.
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”, the Subic rape victim, was one of the petitioners in a motion for reconsideration on the Feb. 11 Supreme Court ruling on the VFA’s constitutionality — together with Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), GABRIELA, Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP), and former Sens. Jovito Salonga and Wigberto Tañada.
She has, however, filed before the Court of Appeals an affidavit expressing doubt on her own previous testimony. The affidavit was notarized by Abraham Rey Acosta, an associate at Sycip, Salazar, Hernandez and Gatmaitan — the same law firm where Jose Justiniano, Smith’s lawyer, belongs.
“Nicole” has also left to migrate to the US, and has sent a letter terminating the services of her lawyer Evalyn Ursua.
“The Court of Appeals must seriously consider how Nicole’s recent affidavit was anomalously notarized by the law firm representing Smith,” said Emmi de Jesus, GABRIELA secretary-general. “The Court of Appeals must see that it is a result of an underhanded manipulation of evil forces to pressure the Higher Court and they must not cow to this. We expect the CA to affirm Smith’s guilty verdict to show that there is hope for justice for Filipinos.”
The protesters carried placards calling for Smith’s imprisonment at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
“While the Department of Justice (DoJ) claims that Nicole’s affidavit will not affect the legal case, other mouthpieces of the Arroyo government are also laying the ground work to acclimatize the public for a possible acquittal of the rapist Smith,” De Jesus said. “This, we will not allow…
“We enjoin Filipino women and the rest of the people to secure what we have achieved thus far. We must continue the fight to end the impertinence of the United States in undermining the dignity of the Filipino people. We must not allow the Arroyo government, in its utter puppetry to US, to sell out the Filipino people. Smith must be imprisoned and the VFA must be abrogated.”
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”. It paved the way for the regular Balikatan military exercises, which began in 2002. (Bulatlat.com)