Pagbabago! strongly condemns the exoneration by the Court of Appeals of US Marine L/Cpl Daniel Smith from the crime of raping a Filipina on Philippine territory. It is a flagrant travesty of justice and a shameless display by the Philippine government of subservience to US interests at the expense of national sovereignty and dignity.

The reversal by the Court of Appeals of the Makati Regional Trial Court’s earlier conviction of Smith is so appallingly inconsistent with the presented evidence and established fact, it could only be the result of the jurists’ succumbing to pressure from the US and Philippine governments to acquit the US serviceman.

The CA justices also resorted to a blatantly sexist line of argument and ignored current jurisprudence on rape: that the character and sexual history of the victim is irrelevant and that the woman has the right to say “NO” at anytime during the sexual act. The fact that Smith and his companions dumped Nicole on the pavement, with a used condom in her still lowered pants, belies any “romantic episode” but reflects the common low regard held by the American “visiting forces” for Filipinas in general.

That the victim herself eventually succumbed to pressure and issued a new affidavit contradicting her previous testimony in court can not overturn the RTC’s verdict since it has no legal bearing on the case whatsoever. Nicole’s so-called recantation is evidently part of a script orchestrated by the Philippine and US governments to prepare the ground for the impending acquittal of Smith by destroying the credibility of Nicole and thereby blunting public opinion against Smith.

The Arroyo government had earlier made it clear that instead of immediately negotiating with the US authorities to acquire custody over Smith, in compliance with a recent SC ruling that his detention in the US Embassy was in breach of the Philippine Constitution, they would wait for the matter to be rendered moot and academic, anticipating an acquittal by the CA. The US government merely said it would refer the SC decision to its legal experts and made no move to turn Smith over to Philippine authorities.

The swift removal of Smith from the US Embassy to an undisclosed destination outside the Philippines soon after the CA acquittal, without any notice to the Philippine officials tasked with monitoring his detention, only serves to expose without a doubt that Philippine sovereignty has been reduced to a mere scrap of paper under the lop-sided Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Clearly those who stand to benefit from this turn of events, aside from the acquitted convict Smith, are the Arroyo regime and the US government whose overriding common interest throughout has been to ensure continued unhampered operations of US troops inside the Philippines through the VFA.

From day one, officials of the two governments conspired to cover-up the crime of rape against a Filipina by a US soldier. Public uproar allowed the case to reach the courts despite a close-to-botched investigation by the police, a half-hearted prosecutorial effort by the Justice Department and the connivance of the two governments to maintain US custody over Smith.

The US and Philippine governments wrongly assume that with the Smith acquittal, calls for the review and abrogation of the VFA will lose steam, having lost the emotional traction that the Nicole rape case provided. They are mistaken. The people’s collective experience of how justice and national sovereignty was trampled upon in the Nicole rape case will not easily be forgotten or forgiven.

It is time to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement! Uphold national sovereignty and defend the rights of our people!

It is time for genuine change! We need and deserve a government that defends our national interests instead of prostituting our resources, both material and human. We need and deserve a government that works for our genuine economic and social development!

Tinig.com

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