Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 22      July 9 - 15, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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Survivor `Nicole’ Recounts Her Ordeal

Women rape victims could learn a lot from Nicole, the 22-year old Filipina who was allegedly raped by U.S. soldiers last November 1. Nicole mustered enough courage to tell her story in a packed courtroom last July 6 during her first court testimony at the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 139.


Dr. June Pagaduan-Lopez, Nicole’s therapist, stressed that the media are crucial in telling the victim’s side of the story. More importantly, the media can raise public awareness of women’s rights, the plight of rape survivors and even the effects of bilateral agreements like the US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) on women.

Lopez revealed what kept Nicole assured was the “unconditional support from her family” who backed her struggle for justice.

“It was easy for her to keep silent or just compromise, but she chose to fight. Her courage is her contribution to the Philippine society,” Lopez said, adding that Nicole’s testimony was also aimed at generating sympathy for all the victims of sexual assault.

Lopez warned that Nicole’s recollection of the sexual assault might cause her chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, which is irreversible. This early, Nicole is experiencing severe traumatic stress after appearing before a public to testify and narrate in detail what transpired on the night of November 1.

Nicole, who tags along her mother during court hearings, apparently still suffering from severe stress the day before, did not show up last July 7 to continue her testimony. Lawyer Evalyn Ursua of the Women’s Legal Bureau relayed to the court that Nicole would like to take a rest.

Senior State Prosecutor Emily Fe delos Santos hoped that Nicole would regain composure before July 10 to continue her testimony against the four U.S. soldiers.

Bursting into tears

Nicole burst into tears five times during her nearly four-hour testimony on Thursday, where she positively identified Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith as the one who raped her.

Smith was said to have been cheered on by Lance Corporal Dominic Duplantis, Keith Silkwood and Staff Sergeant Chad Carpentier during the sexual assault inside a moving van.  

Lopez said that crying helped Nicole maintain her composure while on the stand. She or Nicole’s mother would immediately run to her side whenever she cried, giving fighting words like, “Huwag [kang] pa-baby-baby dahil pagkatao [mo] ang ipinaglalaban natin dito,” (Don’t be like a baby because your dignity is what we are fighting for here.) or “Kaya mo yan nandito lang kami.” (You can do it; we are just here.)

Lopez said that on these occasions, Nicole felt betrayed as she was used to meeting and being nice to U.S. soldiers back in their hometown in Zamboanga, where she managed a family-owned canteen, only a stone’s throw away from a detachment that housed the soldiers participating in the joint military exercises last year.

The canteen served as hangout for the soldiers, who during vacant hours would play cards with Nicole and her siblings, or just chat with them. Two soldiers eventually won their trust, Carlos Ocasio and Chris Mills of the U.S. Navy, who were treated as members of the family. Brian Goodrich – a U.S. soldier with the 12th Marines Operations Platoon based in Okinawa, Japan – became her boyfriend.

Trip to Subic

Trusting them, Nicole accepted an invitation from Ocasio and Mill to go to Subic in Zambales a week before October 30, their travel date.

When they arrived in Subic by plane, they did not stay long at Legenda Hotel and immediately transferred to Grand Leisure Hotel, where they would be staying for three nights.

For the next two days and two nights, Nicole and stepsister Annaliza Franco, visited several bars, casinos and duty-free shops. On Nov. 1, they went to San Roque Chapel at noon to pray for her father, a Philippine Navy officer at the time of his death in 1989.

Back at the hotel at about 6:30 p.m., she and Annaliza met Mills who introduced them to a man surnamed “Garcia,” said to be Mills’ liberty buddy. After eating pizza, they proceeded to the casino and played until 8:20 p.m.

Dancing and drinking at Neptune

Mills, Annaliza and Nicole then proceeded to the Neptune bar. Between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m., after four rounds of orders, the three of them danced. While dancing, she remembered her wrist being held by a foreigner, later identified as Smith, who pulled her away from her two companions.

“Natakot ako. Hindi ko siya kilala tapos bigla niya akong hinila,” she told the court. (I got afraid. I did not know him but he immediately pulled me.)

She looked at Mills, intending to ask if it was okay to dance with a stranger. Mills replied, “It’s okay, go on. Enjoy.” He, however, reminded Smith to take care of her.

Their first encounter lasted for about three to four songs, where Nicole asked Smith questions like, the branch of service he belong to, how old he is and from state in U.S. he lives in.

Nicole, feeling dizzy at this time, was only able to recall the name “Gerard” or “Genard,” his age, which is 20 and his branch of service which is Marines.

From there, now at their table, Nicole recalled seeing two or three U.S. soldiers whom she earlier met in Zamboanga. She said she felt “safe” upon seeing them.

After drinking Long Island ice tea, she and Annaliza again danced. Feeling even dizzier, she cannot recall why suddenly Smith was in front of her and Annaliza was gone.

“Natatandaan ko na nakaharap ako sa kanya, pinapatalikod niya ako pero everytime [na gawin niya ito] humaharap ako,” Nicole said. (I remember I was in front of him. He wanted me to turn my back on him but everytime he turns me around, I would face him.)

After dancing, she recalled being able to drink half a pitcher of Bullfrog. This time, he noticed that three foreigners were facing her at the table.

Losing track of time, she only remembered being asked to get out of the bar by Smith, saying it was hot inside. She refused, saying she was waiting for her sister.

Smith was insistent, grabbing her by the wrist. Given her already hazy memory, she remembered seeing an identification card but failing to recall what was written on it.

The last thing she knew, said Nicole, “May nakapatong na sa akin, nakahiga ako. Nararamdaman ko ang weight niya. Hinahalikan niya ako.” (There was someone on top of me, and I was lying down. I felt the weight of the person. The latter was kissing me.)

Asked in what position she was in, she said, “Nakatihaya po,” (Lying face up) and who was on top of her, “Si Smith po.” (It was Smith.)

The courtroom fell silent at 4:10 p.m. while the young Filipina cried and sobbed for the fifth time, prompting Judge Benjamin Pozon to adjourn for the day.

Political issue

Dr. Lopez said that somehow, Nicole has appreciated the attention her case has been getting from the media. In turn, she is being educated by the circumstances her ordeal had brought to the public.

Her family would rather prefer a depoliticized treatment of the case, but this is inevitable since pertinent provisions of the US-RP VFA are directly related to the rape case. In particular, the prosecution is questioning the provision in the VFA that limits the period wherein U.S. soldiers could only be tried by a Philippine court to only one year.

In June, Ursua filed a petition for certiorari seeking full custody of the four U.S. soldiers involved in the rape case. If granted, this would prevent the soldiers from getting off the hook as in the previous cases involving U.S. soldiers, she noted. Bulatlat



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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