MILITANTS ON SUBIC RAPE VERDICT:
'IT FALLS SHORT'
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Posted 6:25 p.m., Dec. 4, 2006
The victory is only partial, as the decision falls short of what the verdict should have been.
This was how the leaders of the militant groups that rallied outside the Makati Regional Trial Court today described Judge Benjamin Pozon’s decision on the Subic rape case.
Pozon found the principal accused Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith guilty of raping “Nicole,” the court-assigned name of the Subic rape victim, on Nov. 1 last year. His co-accused S/Sgt. Chad Carpentier, Lance Cpl. Keith Silkwood, and Lance Cpl. Dominic Duplantis were acquitted.
“We could have been happy that at least one was convicted,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) secretary-general Renato Reyes, Jr. “But this only showed our limited ability to prosecute offending U.S. soldiers for as long as we have the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).”
“For as long as we have difficulty getting custody of offending U.S. soldiers, it becomes harder to file and pursue charges against them, it becomes harder to haul them to prison,” Reyes added.
The VFA, which was ratified in 1999 by the Senate and grants extraterritorial and extrajudicial privileges to U.S. troops visiting the country for joint military “exercises” with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), provides that Philippine authorities shall waive their primary right to exercise jurisdiction upon request by U.S. authorities, except in cases the government considers to be of particular importance to the Philippines.
“We feel a limited satisfaction (with the decision), as there was one who was found guilty,” said Gert Ranjo-Libang, spokesperson of the women’s group GABRIELA. “But it’s limited, because the three others were not found guilty as charged. We think all four of them should have been convicted.”
“We are also demanding the abrogation of the VFA,” she added. “Because under this agreement, even if Smith was found guilty, there is a question on where he is to be jailed. Under the VFA, the Philippine and U.S. governments still have to confer on where the guilty party is to be jailed.”
Reyes expressed a similar view. “That is what is sad about the whole thing: whatever will be agreed about with the U.S. will depend on the political will of the Arroyo administration, and that is not the justice that we want,” the Bayan leader said.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr., a noted nationalist, hailed the decision as a “partial victory,” but stressed that the Philippines should have custody of Smith as the crime of rape, he said, “is of particular importance” to the Philippines.
“There are imbalances that should be corrected,” Guingona said when asked how he expected the decision to affect RP-U.S. relations. “The sovereignty should belong to the Philippines in crimes of particular importance.”
Pozon also decided that Smith should be temporarily detained at the Makati City Jail. However, as of 4 p.m. –- more than an hour after the verdict was promulgated –- Smith had not been brought to the said detention facility. Bulatlat