On Nicole’s affidavit and Smith’s acquittal

I know we haven’t opened this blog for a long time. I was alarmed to read all your comments. I just wanted to say this:

No, we are not mad at Nicole for what she did. We still think kindly of her. We understand her, and we know without a doubt that she was raped.

Her affidavit was not a recantation. Also, Nicole was only one witness to the case. There were others who described her condition at the club. They also confirmed what she drank. A team of toxicologists calculated her blood alcohol level based on the drinks.

There are three other conditions for rape apart from sexual coercion:

1. Victim is mentally retarded.

2. Victim is psychotic.

3. Victim is drugged or intoxicated.

Nicole’s case fell in the third condition. Per her blood alcohol level at that time, she was not in any position to give consent. Smith took advantage of her vulnerable and intoxicated state.

We will be getting together this weekend. We’ll post something after then.

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Online Petition: Justice for Nicole, Justice for our Nation

N.B. Below is the petition drafted by the Task Force Subic Rape. To add your signature, please follow this link.

You may also send your signature to tfsrsecretariat@yahoo.com, with this in the subject line: “Online Petition: Justice for Nicole, Justice for our Nation.”

The trial of the Subic Rape Case in which four U.S. servicemen have been accused of raping a Filipina is coming to an end. We wholeheartedly commend the victim “Nicole” for gathering the courage to defend her dignity and demand justice for herself and our nation.We believe that the Subic rape case is a landmark case for being the first that has come to trial in our country against U.S. servicemen, and for its importance in challenging the implementation of the Anti-rape Law in the furtherance of women’s rights.

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Nicole to Gonzales: ‘Too late’

A week after she appealed that state prosecutors handling her case be replaced, Nicole sent another letter today to the justice secretary, this time saying that even if he would grant her request, it would be too late.

Nicole said the decision of DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzales would no longer make a difference once the defense panel finishes presenting its witnesses.

Defense planned to present six witnesses: the four accused, a US Marine who claimed to be Nicole’s friend, and an obstetrician-gynecologist.

Of the six, only accused Lance Corporals Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis have not taken the stand yet. Others were done with their testimonies, save for Dr. Teresita Sanchez who still have to testify for cross-examination.

In her letter, Nicole wrote in detail how the poor performance of the prosecutors disappointed her especially during the September 11 hearing.

“I was extremely dismayed, disturbed and alarmed upon witnessing one of the state prosecutors cross-examine accused [L/Cpl Daniel] Smith,” Nicole said.

Nicole said that lawyer Nolibien Quiambao was “obviously unprepared” for even Judge Benjamin Pozon had to reprimand him several times for merely repeating what Smith stated.

She then revealed that before the September 11 hearing, her public and private lawyers already agreed that senior state prosecutor Emilie Fe delos Santos would handle Smith’s cross-examination.

“Why did she not cross-examine Smith?” Nicole asked, adding that it disappointed her that a junior prosecutor like Quiambao would cross-examine the prime suspect and the “most critical witness” of this case.

She continued that Quiambao is often absent or never takes notes during hearings, and sometimes leaves the court after staying briefly.

Nicole also said that delos Santos turned down her plea to let private prosecutor Evalyn Ursua help conduct the cross-examination. Delos Santos purportedly told her that Ursua could no longer cross-examine.

“I am the victim here. I have the right to be represented. I cannot stand the fact that they have excluded my private lawyers,” Nicole said.

She then added, “What is the sense of hiring the services of my lawyers if they have no participation in the case?”

Meanwhile, Nicole narrated instances when the public prosecutors showed indifference to her feelings as a rape survivor. She recounted that they sometimes scold her and make her stop crying during hearings.

She also wrote that she felt demoralized whenever the prosecutors come to court late or are absent, or when she see them laugh with the defense panel inside the courtroom.

Nicole further stated that state prosecutors treated her with “lack of respect” and that she had no good relationship with them.

“They did not even respect me and how I felt during that time,” Nicole said, adding that the prosecutors should have understood how she felt that time because they have handled rape cases before.

Nicole’s allies say VFA compromises rape case

With the government still mum about the issue, supporters of Nicole expressed fear that her case will not prosper.Supporters blamed the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement for the government’s snubbing of the landmark case, which involves four US Marines.

Walang mangyayari sa kaso dahil sa mga probisyon sa VFA (Nothing will happen to the case because of the provisions in the VFA),” Lina Ongkiko-Monsod, spokesperson of Gabriela Network of Professionals, said in a forum held today at the Claro M. Recto Hall at UP Diliman.

Gabriela is one of the members of Justice for Nicole Movement, a recently established alliance of sororities and women’s organizations that support Nicole.

Monsod said that since the Philippine government is in favor of the VFA provisions, it fetters itself from making comments on Nicole’s case.

Under the VFA, the Philippine courts are given only a year to try cases involving US servicemen and the US government takes custody of the offending officers.

Pag Pilipino ang nagkasala, kulong kaagad. Pag Amerikano, may VIP treatment pa (If the perpetrator is a Filipino, he is immediately jailed. But if it is an American, he gets a VIP treatment),” Monsod said.

Monsod added that she heard reports that while the trial of the case is ongoing, the four accused are allegedly enjoying their nightlife.

Another supporter warned that as with other cases of sexual assault involving US servicemen, Nicole’s case might just come to naught.

Joan Salvador, head of Gabriela Youth National, cited the plight of 82 women and 14 children whose cases were not even tried in court, and the perpetrators were able to go back to their respective countries.

She also recalled the case of a girl who died of infection after a US soldier allegedly raped her and left a vibrator inside her vagina.

She said that even if Nicole wins the case, the accused might still go unpunished if the US Embassy will not turn them over to the Philippine government.

Moreover, Salvador blamed the VFA for what happened to the 22-year-old complainant.

Di mangyayari ang rape kung walang mga Amerikanong sundalo. Walang mga Amerikanong sundalo kung walang VFA (The rape wouldn’t have happened had there been no American soldiers. American soldiers wouldn’t have been here if there was no VFA),” she said.

Salvador further said that as long as US soldiers are in the country, cases of sexual assault will continue.

During the open forum, the VFA was also seen as a factor why red districts flourish in Mindanao.

Carol Sobritchea, director of Center of Women’s Studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman said that owing to their poor economic condition, women are forced to work as sex workers just to earn a living.

Anong magagawa nila? Tayo mismo, di natin pinoprotektahan ang ating mga mamamayan (What can they do? We, ourselves, are not able to protect our citizens),” Monsod seconded.

Hearing for today cancelled after Nicole breaks down during rehearsal

The hearing for today was cancelled by Atty. Evalyn Ursua after Nicole broke down while preparing for the expected harsh grilling by the defense at the lawyer’s office.

Nicole had taken the witness stand for the first time yesterday since the hearings began last June 2. Nicole wept four times, which prompted Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Benjamin Pozon to adjourn the day’s hearing an hour earlier.

Direct and cross examinations for Nicole will continue on Monday. Dr. Raquel Fortun, the forensic pathologist whose expertise the defense had tried but failed to avail, will follow on Tuesday.