Wimps We Are Not

Originally published in Tulay, a Chinese-Filipino fortnightly by Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran. This was taken from Teresita Ang See’s Beats & Bytes column in the paper’s July 18, 2006 issue. Posted with permission from the author.

Attending the trial of the Subic rape case at the Makati regional trial court has been a valuable experience, even for a veteran of court hearings like me. There are sad, harrowing and heart-wrenching moments, but also enlightening, funny and light moments.

You learn to appreciate how rich the Filipino language is. How do you translate bakay-bakay and nakalungayngay into English?

You get to appreciate how truth, honesty and a sense of justice make witnesses surface and testify, against the advice of well-meaning friends.

Nicole, the 22-year-old rape victim, is determined in her quest for justice against an American marine who raped her and three others who not only failed to come to her aid but even egged the accused to perform the bestial act. Nicole has positively identified Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith as the rapist. The driver of the van where she was raped has likewise identified Smith as the rapist and confirmed that Smith was cheered on by Lance Cpls. Dominic Duplantis, Keith Silkwood and Chad Carpentier during the sexual assault.

Nicole comes from a decent family. She is a management graduate from the Ateneo de Zamboanga [sic]. She and her sibling were invited to Subic by family friend Chris Mills, also a U.S. Marine. The only “crime,” if that can be called of Nicole’s action, is she dared go to the jungle that is Subic to have fun. She’s young, she’s “promdi (from the province),” she’s naïve. In her testimony, she said she never expected to pay such a costly and unexpected price for daring to have fun with people whom she trusted and felt comfortable with—the U.S. soldiers.

***

Nicole burst into tears five times when she took the witness stand for the first time last July 6 and gave a nearly four-hour testimony. The next day’s hearing had to be postponed because Nicole was suffering from post-traumatic stress. When she resumed her testimony on July 10, Nicole again broke down in tears as she recounted her painful experience. There will be many more really difficult and distressing times ahead of her.

I’ve seen many kidnap victims break down on the witness stand, especially under the senseless grilling of defense counsels. A defense lawyer once asked Sheryl, a kidnap victim, “Oh, so you even played tong-its with your abductors, that means kaibigan mo sila, hindi ka biktima.” The victim cried and lashed out, “Ilang araw na akong hostage, halos masiraan na ako ng bait. Nung tinuruan nila akong mag-tong-its, ipinagpasalamat ko pa yon dahil kahit panandalian, nakalimutan kong baka maya-maya lang eh wala na akong buhay. Ngayon kasalanan ko pa pala iyon?”

The hearing had to be suspended because Sheryl became hysterical and couldn’t stop crying.

I also recall how Jacky, tears pouring down her face, recounted to the court the conversation she had with her father during her captivity: She had asked him for his and her family’s forgiveness if she had done them any wrong, thanked them for taking care of her, and told them not to blame themselves if she were killed by the kidnapers. There was no dry eye in court; even Jacky’s father broke down. He recalled that it was after hearing his daughter say goodbye that he agreed to pay the P10million ransom to kidnapers.

These stories are multiplied many times over by the many silent hapless victims.

***

True, there are many other rape cases. Nicole’s lead counsel, Evalyn Ursua, and psychiatrist, Dr. June Lopez, revealed that they sometimes handle half a dozen cases at a single time. But what makes Nicole’s case special? It is because it was a foreigner, a trained soldier who raped an innocent probinsyana on our own shores.

The accused are trained Marines who employed brute force and dared abuse Filipinos because they know that with the country’s mendicant foreign policy, the crime may draw a political rather than a judicial decision. Even Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez already showed bias in favor of the Marines early on in the case.

On the victim’s side, social activist groups like the University of the Philippines Women’s Studies, the Philippine General Hospital Women’s Desk, Gabriela, Abanse Pinay have come to her support. Professionals, businesswomen and other discerning women, not just activist groups, have also taken up the cudgels for Nicole.

***

Sen. Letty Shahani, who attends the hearings regularly, noted that in the courtroom, the agencies of the U.S. government are in full force. The American Embassy with ranking officers and local staff, their own media, their allies in the Philippine government and other experts in cloak-and-dagger operations give sustained support for the U.S. Marines and even pay for their private counsels. Contrast that with our own policemen and soldiers who are accused in court. They are often left to fend for themselves after trying to do their jobs for the country. Contrast that with the accused Chinese nationals in many of the courtrooms. Never have I ever encountered an embassy personnel helping the victims, even in the simple task of acting as interpreter.

As Shahani pointed out to the TOWNS (The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service) to which she and this author belong: “In effect, the story of Nicole is the story of our people—innocent, trusting about foreigners, hospitable to a fault. Filipinos meet tragedy in international relations when the relationship with foreigners goes beyond friendship and the happy hour and when power, violence, dominance over the other are introduced. The Filipino is too unsophisticated to fight back, too tiny to overcome, too traumatized to match the toughness of the system. This is why we should all help in the case of Nicole. Rape is sexual violence against the will of the victim. Being drunk, being immoral (which Nicole is not) does not justify rape.”

She succinctly explained our mendicant foreign policy: “What is at stake here is not just the dignity and worth of another innocent probinsyana but our pride as a people and a nation. In the International Herald Tribune of July 8-9, p.6, there is an article entitled, ‘Unusual apology for rape issued by top US officials.’ The first paragraph opens thus: Baghdad: The U.S. Ambassador and the top U.S. military commander here have together issued an unusual apology for the rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman and the killing of her family, saying that the crime, in which at least four soldiers are suspects, had injured the ‘Iraqi people as a whole.’ Are we, Filipinos, such wimps? I hope not!”

***

It is the height of insensitivity and callousness to make Nicole’s pain a laughing matter.

That was why I couldn’t stop reacting after I saw Smith and Duplantis laughing with their Filipina assistant private counsel. The Judge Benjamin Pozon had to suspend the trial because Nicole had become hysterical. “Naiisip ko sana mamatay na lang ako,” she wailed.

When I stood up after the Judge left the court and saw Smith and Duplantis discussing something with their Filipina assistant private counsel and laughing, I said, within hearing of their Filipino security, “Aba, may gana pang magtawa ang mga gago!”

The security personnel stood up and I thought it was to admonish the two accused. But he didn’t and when I saw the accused continue their joyful conversation in the midst of Nicole’s painful sobbing, I couldn’t stand it and told the U.S. Embassy personnel, “Can you tell those two guys to stop laughing.”

I got even more shocked when the two just smirked at me while the embassy personnel asked, “Why who are they laughing at?” Actually, at that point, I didn’t know what was more shocking, seeing the accused laughing or seeing the Filipina assistant private counsel laugh with them.

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23 Comments

  1. Atty E. Garcia said,

    August 5, 2006 at 10:23 pm

    In the end, the outcome will be decided by what can be legally proven in court. It still remains the law of the Philippine courts —- innocent until proven guilty. Many of the trivia and gazillion details that you put down are irrelevant to guilty/not-guilty : for example:
    “…I got even more shocked when the two just smirked at me while the embassy personnel asked, “Why who are they laughing at?” Actually, at that point, I didn’t know what was more shocking, seeing the accused laughing or seeing the Filipina assistant private counsel laugh with them.”

    It also should be irrelevant to the decision about that case that the popular priest — James Donelan, SJ — tells newspaper people that the accused is “a good kid”.

  2. Melba said,

    August 8, 2006 at 5:37 am

    Reading the witnesses’ account of the rape incident and from the varied points of view during the marathon trial I thought of the following:

    – That proper decorum was never emphasized during the training of these US marines, in the office of the US embassy and worse, to the assistant private counsel. How can we expect to act properly if they are drunK and their sense clouded?

    – That in this country, sometimes you have to get killed in order to be believed in. Sometimes, that is (even in death).

    – That this country, in general, has become numb to gruesome crimes of varying magnitude and still embraces that which is colonial and oppressive.

    – And without us knowing it primetime TV programming be it news and the soaps have somehow made these acts of crime a commonplace, a nocturnal routine of the senses that has become a matter of systematic desensitization to general public? That others believe Subic rape case is staged And that Nicole’s manifesting symptoms of PTSD is plain acting. Sino and director si Duplantis o si Carpentier?

    – And what about the other member of the cast, the one who provided the “set” Timoteo Soriano? Mukhang siya lang ang masaya! Matanda na sya kaya di sya pwede maging saling-pusa! He must also be indicted as an accused.

    – That while OFWs abroad lament for unfair treatment and racism, and other foreigners empathize with Nicole, this government exemplifies utmost prejudice, racism and insensitivity. Paano kaya kung babaeng dayuhan ang narape ng mga Pinoy? Di ba karumal-dumal yun! Pero sa kaso ng apat na marino, di raw dapat sila agad husgahan at kelangan din daw pangalagaan ang kanilang karapatang pantao at igalang ang kasunduang VFA . Kaya di dapat sila nakakulong!

    -Why the neglible support given to the victim by the country’s top leaders? Mmmm, I wonder how supportive they would have been if there were budget allocations, loyalty perks and bonuses that are given if Nicole wins? Pity Nicole, even the access to the transcipts is a struggle. And even pleas for help is mocked as money-making.

    – The US Marines are lucky, they have the support of Fr. Reuter. Bakit nga pala wala statement and CBCP regarding the subicrapecase when this is also a national/political concern? Baka meron na, pero di gaanong masidhi ang concern nila. I noted that some priests and bishops get involved over jueteng scams, the magdalo struggle,the cha-cha and imepeachment. Worse, this is a rape case which is a moral issue not just an issue of forgiveness and forgetting.

    – Even most of our senators and congressmen have become mute and muted. Especially the “trapos”, who who are more committed to marrying their seats whispering “till death do us part” since the Marcos era. This, nothwithstanding the fast turnovers of Presidents in this country. (minsan naiisip ko sana umabot and tsunami o kaya lava ng bulkang Mayon. Sorry. ) Buti pa nga ang isyu ng rolex watch and amor propio, ipinaglalaban. To think they were the ones who drafted and approved the VFA aggreement, they can’t do anything about the case. They’d rather talk about Chacha.

    -Manny Pacquiao is even luckier, apart from huge commercial endorsements, politicians even flew in droves to the United States to watch and throw support during his boxing bouts. After every win, he gets a call from Her Excellency.

    Wow, Our President and the country praised and treated one man as hero for almost killing another human being in the guise of sport! How Barbaric! In that case, there is no need to expect Nicole, in their eyes you don’t qualify to be a hero or at least get that precious call to soothe your anguish.

    – But looking closely, isn’t the courtroom similar to a boxing match, between that of Nicole and the accused. Sadly, Nicole gets the greater jabs and hits, while the marines can still laugh at their seats (for whatever reason, it was still inappropriate).

    – I wonder, what if Nicole’s life was lost after the rape incident, (God forbid!) Is there a chance that more will believe Nicole and her ordeals similar to the pandemonium during the execution of Flor Contemplation? Rather than the current number of people who accused her as “loose”,”immoral”, and “was asking for it”, while I don’t hear much words like “loose, immoral, “sex-hungry” thrown at the marines for playing around, maybe even if some or all of them are married. Kasi, nga, lalaki sila?!!

    – That this truly, is a test case. Where VFA is concerned, we can’t get the support of the present government. Nicole has become a punching of the VFA. We need the media, the NGOs, the women’s and other movements whether militant, moderates, whatever, in our struggle to be heard and be vindicated. We need judges and lawyers who don’t give up on us just because our government is tied to a useless, self-serving agreement.

    -Sana nga lang di maubos ang lahat ng mga matatapang at may paninindigan sapagkat isa-isa na silang pinapatay o kaya binabalaan, alang-alang daw sa ganap na kapayapaan.

    I surmise that indeed , the Philippines is a Christian and a Democratic Country. By being Christian, our leaders wash their hands in the face of political and colonnial dilemma, and rather opt to crucify and kill our true heroes. By being democratic, we condone these acts of violence.

    And this subic rape case is still a case about women being a looked upon as a second class citizen and their struggle for equality. While Jocjoc Bolante, Garci were defended by the government.

    Nicole still has to prove to all and sundry that she was raped despite her truth, her travails and her consistent witnesses. Hope Nicole’s struggle will be vindicated. And hoping even more that victims don’t have to come out on TV and be mocked, if only to get justice. I fervently hope for enlightenment of those who doubt and an end to violence. And that someday we won’t need money, so that there will be no kidnap-for ransom cases, no robbery and certainly no one can buy Justice.

  3. John said,

    August 10, 2006 at 9:31 am

    I hadn’t been following the news for a few weeks and found this web site when doing a quick google to find out if there was an outcome in the trial yet.

    It’s incredible how many Filipinos have already decided the guilt of the US Marines. Maybe you were all witnesses and saw the events yourselves? If not, why not let the court do it’s job and determine the truth as best it can based on evidence and testimony? What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

    Rather than complain about the VFA and the protection it gives the US Marines involved, why not question what is wrong with a legal system that can not resolve a rape case in 12 months? What about justice for the accused? If it turns out they have been falsely accused, would it have been fair for them to be imprisoned for that length of time? Such ridiculous delays in the legal system are exactly why that provision had to be included in the VFA in the first place.

  4. Bang said,

    August 10, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    You said it. And certainly there will be varied interpretations of the law. But I guess it would be better for you to follow the news more closely and read on the VFA provisions and the Laws on Rape and other Violence against women, so you will understand the angst over VFA and the kind of justice the people who believe in Nicole and the other women-victims like her, are fighting for.

  5. stoxbnx3 said,

    August 13, 2006 at 7:27 am

    why the need for an extrajudicial struggle?

    this is also a social issue. the groups supporting nicole are also fighing for the cause of rape victims, who most often are the ones being blamed for simply “being there” at the scene of the crime. where in fact studies have revealed that most rape incidents occur in places where women feel they are safe, and are committed by those they know and trust. this victim-blaming is rooted in our conservative society, and that’s what we are trying to change. we have a long way to go in understanding rape.

  6. John said,

    August 13, 2006 at 12:35 pm

    I understand there are wider concerns and issues involved here and that is probably the biggest concern I have. Those concerned with the cause of rape victims and those against the VFA and American involvement in this country are using this case as a symbol.

    Hanging all this on a group of Marines who have not yet been found guilty of anything is quite unfair.

    I just hope the legal system here is able to resist all that external pressure and come to a verdict purely based on the evidence.

  7. Kristine said,

    August 14, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    “Judges and lawyers still rely heavily on the medical evidence presented in sexual violence cases especially rape, despite the settled rule the medical evidence is only corroborative of the survivor’s testimony.” (Source: “Sexual Violence as a Medico-legal Issue.” Women’s Legal Bureau, Inc.)

    Who’s really on trial here? The marines or Nicole (and having to prove her credibility)?

  8. John said,

    August 17, 2006 at 12:59 pm

    In this case, as in many others, the issue being disputed is whether she consented to sex. He claims yes, she claims no. The court can not take her credibility for granted any more than it can his.

    The court will decide how believable the testimony of the marines and Nicole is but any other corroborative evidence will obviously be very useful.

    Yes, in a way, Nicole is on trial too but there isn’t really any other option. Rape is sometimes a false accusation and the court has to decide if that is the case this time.

  9. stoxbnx3 said,

    August 18, 2006 at 1:52 am

    but it’s her character that the public is putting nicole on trial for. that’s very unfair.

  10. ninnz said,

    August 18, 2006 at 4:15 am

    isnt it amazing how easy it is to pass on judgement to issues that seem pretty and irrelevant once it hasnt happened to you?

    here is the sad truth to this case…

    left and right you hear comments like “she wanted it” if she didnt want to be raped, “she shouldnt have been there in the first place”… “let the courts do thier job and lets take public opinion out of the picture so that justice can properly be served”….

    the thing is ladies and gentlemen, this case is not so far to our very own personal lives… the truth is, from the very beggining, this has been our case all along… this is the case of our sisters, our mothers, ourselves… for this case holds the key to very symbolism of our freedom and the nature of our nation….

    for years now, we have claimed to be free and yet we have been following foriegn power like stupid dogs who doesnt know better for themselves…. why do you think did we agreed to the VFA in the first place? in not so many words, what we agreed upon is for another nation to use and abuse our lands for no price and no responsiblities… who does that? ONLY IN THE PHILIPPINES!!!

    now we are claiming that the courts have the rightful job to take care and judge this trial… our very courts who allowed this situation to happen in the first place!!! our courts who did not have the balls to stand up for this nation and declare VFA to be unconstitutional… do you think they are the ones who have the wisdom of seeing this justice?

    if they have the right to question the sexual history of the victim, dont we have the right to question the history of thier loyalty to duty?

    yes we were all not there to witness the rape, “or if it even was rape to begin with…” we are not the courts to deliver justice “to whom ever justice needs to be given to”…

    but we are here to make sure that justice is served to the ones abuse… may it be through moral support or public dismay….

    let me remind you insensitive pompous arrogant creatures our there that there is a real girl out there… whether or not she agreed to sexual intercourse in the first place… this girl was drunk and taken for granted… and somewhere out there at one point in her life, she laid in the shadows ashamed of her very own being because she was used…

    she had a mistake no doubt about it…. if she hadnt, she wouldnt have been raped in the first place…. isnt it that punishement enough for her?

    what about those who took advantage of that mistake she did? will wejust let them be without having them learn thier lesson? what will this teach other US servicemen coming in and out of the country? “hey lets just rape a filipina, get off duty for one year and stay at fine hotels til we are proven not guilty”

    is this the justice we want to show?

    please think twice before you say anything… you were not there at the rape, you were not raped and you were never at any trial when the victim was openly humiliated not only be defense lawyers but even the judge “how did the accused massage you breast”—> can you imagine how a rape victim could answer this if a judge had asked you…

    i hope you have a long day contemplating upon this before i see your comment again…

  11. Mike Abundo said,

    August 21, 2006 at 10:07 am

    Of course they laugh. American soldiers rape anyone — even American women.

  12. Anonymous said,

    September 2, 2006 at 7:21 am

    defending insensitivity is outright callousness!

  13. Timbo said,

    September 4, 2006 at 1:37 pm

    Being a retired US Military in this country for 26 years I have followed this case with great interest. While at Clark AB in the 60s nad later many FAKE rape cases were made just to get money from the accussed as they knew they would have a very long trial if they did not pay. AND the suppossed victums and their “lieyers” were the same.

    VFA is also for the good of the Philippines. When the Philippine PMA student got caught shop lifting in the USA he was turned over to the Philippine Government just as the US Marines were turned over to the US Gov. Granted Rape and shop lifting are very differnet. BUT both a crime.

    When called to the judges office in a Philippine shoting of a US Navy in San Miguel I was ask if I could identify the shooter in a line up. I said yes even though it was 6 months since the shooting. Then I was ask if I could identify a substitute. I LAUGHED. How the hell can you put a substitute in a line up for the accussed and expect me to identify him. But they said it is allowed to do that. I said this is a joke and lets get the fuck out of here. The Philippine judge was not amused. That is the legal system.

    MAYBE they laughed in court because they knew Nicole was not raped and MAYBE she even requested to be paid. A province girl who has a US Marine Boy friend who travels with her sister and another 12 year old sister several hundred miles. Then receives 3-4 thousand pesos to gamble with is not totally innocent. Seems like there is underlying expectations on both sides here.

    Lets find out how a Philippine Military man can own and offer “short times” for 6000 pesos in his clubs on Subic.

    MAYBE there was not even consential sex as the condom had no male DNA. MAYBE she refused there deal or they refused to accept her deal!!

    Why would her sister leave her to go with her US Military friend back to the hotel and only get worried about her sister after notified she was in a hospital? Why would nicole and her 12 YEAR old sister go looking in the clubs for the Marines if she was in such bad medical shape. Was it to get the payment? Again only the people involved will know for sure. 12 Year old going to the clubs…they do start them young.

    Any of the above could be the result and only those present will know the real facts of the case. I only hope it is a fair decession base on the evidence and not a political motivated one.

  14. Donna said,

    September 4, 2006 at 7:14 pm

    Maybe you should all wait until the marines have a chance to tell their side of the story. Just because a girl gets drunk and has sex does not mean she was raped. Since when does regretting having sex make it ok to say you were raped. Just look at reality tv and see all the people who get drunk have sex in the hot tub and feel horrible about it the next day. Does this mean they were raped?? No it only means they did something they regretted and wish they could take back. But ruining someone elses life does not make it go away.

  15. stoxbnx3 said,

    September 5, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    the anti-rape law of 1997 defines rape as taking sexual advantage of somene who is “deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious.” nicole was very intoxicated that night, even falling in and out of consciousness before, during, and after the assault.

  16. stoxbnx3 said,

    September 5, 2006 at 2:20 pm

    1. carmela (the 12-year-old you were referring to) only went to the club to help look for nicole, and she was with another sister. please don’t drag the child here.

    2. there was no male DNA found in the condom because the material degraded from exposure to the air. the condom was recovered with its inside portion on the ouside. BUT, there was a male DNA profile found on the panty, and it matched smith’s. how would you explain that?

    3. actually, the family has spent so much for the trial, to the point of selling some of their real estate properties to help defray the expenses. if their concern is money, they shouldn’t have been persistent about pursuing the case and spending more.

  17. sydney said,

    September 27, 2006 at 5:08 am

    “But what makes Nicole’s case special? It is because it was a foreigner, a trained soldier who raped an innocent probinsyana on our own shores.”

    where’s the innocence when youre no longer a virgin…

  18. Jose said,

    October 15, 2006 at 3:19 am

    Yes, only a Filipino can rape a Filipina not a Foreigner. Very good point!

  19. bryan said,

    November 7, 2006 at 11:19 pm

    well for everybodys concern that girl is not innocent at all.DONT U PEOPLE KNOW THAT SHE’S A PROFESSIONAL HOOKER?TRAINED BY OF COURSE EHEM.BUBUNGA BA NAMAN ANG MANGA NG SANTOL!NAKU PLEASE PEOPLE GIVE TIME TO SEARCH HER FAMILIES BACKGROUND BEFORE U GUYS TALK AND CHIT CHAT ABOUT SOMETHING WHICH IS JUST A BULLSHIT!

  20. bryan said,

    November 8, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    exactly sydney!are you people sure that she havent been fucking around with all these americans?i dont think so!that’s what u people need to find out!give some time go to the place where records are stored!! man!she been in that profession for a long time now!she just needs a break and this is it!nice!

  21. bryan said,

    November 8, 2006 at 9:08 pm

    nicole i know that u know what im talkin about lady! see ya around!

  22. mrs daniel smith said,

    December 7, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    Moral lesson: Drinking can make an innocent man’s life miserable for 40 years… *sigh* Life really is unfair.

  23. ghianne said,

    March 8, 2007 at 5:12 am

    bryan, dont you have any sisters or even a mother???how come that you can proudly say those thing to lady abuse and whats worst is, the scenario happens in our own country???how dare you said that nicole is trained to fuck arund?if so, why did she have to put the shamed and the embarassment of those unfair critisism of those people who is narrow minded exactly at her face???youre impossible!!!ypure hopelesss!!!!anyway, there is a karma waiting for those people who makes judgement as their hobby!!god bless!!!


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