A rape is not simply a transgression of a person’s right or a criminal act. Rape is a life-changing and traumatic experience. In a painful moment, a woman is robbed of her dignity by the bestial desires of a man. And the emotional scars of rape take a lifetime to heal. Perhaps what would facilitate the healing process is for the victim to seek and attain justice.

Such is the difficult journey of Nicole. For a year now, she had to live with and continue reliving what happened to her on Nov. 1, 2005. A vacation turned into a nightmare. More than that, she had to live with the repulsive comments, insults, stares and the insensitivities of those who know no better.

The worst of it came from the Department of Justice (DoJ), a government agency that is supposed to protect and give justice to the oppressed. Right from the start, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez had already expressed disbelief over the rape of Nicole. He even said that the three others could have been charged with a lesser crime but he felt compelled to “bow to mob rule.” And toward the end of the case, Senior State Prosecutor Emilie de los Santos even called Nicole and her family as “ingrates” and “liars.”

This situation shows the kind of justice department we have. Perhaps the honorable justice secretary and his band of prosecutors let their slip show early on especially since the accused are not ordinary people. Lance Corporal Daniel Smith (the principal accused), Staff Sergeant Chad Brian Carpenter and Lance Corporals Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis are representatives of the almighty America.

Right from the start, Nicole was faced with the biggest obstacle of all, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the U.S. and the Philippines. With the VFA, the accused did not have to be detained inside the country’s decrepit and overcrowded prison cells. Instead, they had air-conditioned accommodations at the U.S. Embassy. They do not have to be “detained” very long because the VFA has a one-year deadline for the hearings. After that, the accused U.S. soldiers can be shipped out of the country.

Top lawyers

Smith and company had top-caliber lawyers defending them and the U.S. embassy protecting them. They seemed so confident that the defense panel presented only five witnesses, the four accused and Dr. Teresita Sanchez, an obstetrician-gynecologist. The prosecution, on the other hand, presented 23 witnesses including Nicole.

Nobody can best describe the difficulties Nicole had to endure than Nicole herself. She issued this statement on November 1st, exactly one year after the incident.

“It wasn’t easy for me to file a complaint against my rapists. And neither was the (legal) system kind to me after I decided to pursue the case. Instead of taking my side in my fight, our government took steps to make my situation much harder. I have not received a single message of support from our woman President, while the secretary of justice has even repeatedly defended my rapists.“During the almost daily trials at the Makati Regional Trial Court, I experienced the reality that the rape victim is raped repeatedly inside and outside the courtroom while the case is being tried. In the face of all the insults and recrimination that I have gone through in the past year, only my belief in truth and justice and the support of my family and of women have been my sole source of strength and resolve not to surrender. My decision to pursue the case should be proof of my conviction that Daniel Smith, Chad Carpentier, Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis deserve to be in prison.

“They should be made to suffer for the indignities they forced me to go through. They should be put behind bars. Their rightful punishment should serve as an example to the whole world and to American military personnel.“On this day, I am crying out for justice!”

November 27 will be the day of reckoning for Nicole. Judge Benjamin Pozon of the Makati Regional Trial Court is expected to hand down his decision on the Subic rape case.

But Nicole’s case is not just a rape case. It is also a case against the presence of U.S. troops in the country, a violation of our sovereignty. It is not only Nicole’s dignity which was violated. The Filipino people’s dignity is also trampled upon whenever U.S. soldiers conduct military exercises in our country; participate in combat operations with the AFP; and have the gall to rape a Filipina.

It was not only the bias of the justice department that was exposed by the Subic rape case, but also the Arroyo administration’s and the VFA’s. In fact, the Subic rape case is an indictment of the four U.S. soldiers and the VFA.

Indeed, the struggle for justice should not only be Nicole’s, but also the entire people’s as well. Bulatlat

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