Women’s alliance tells Aquino: End VFA
SAN FERNANDO CITY, Pampanga, Philippines—A group of women organizations urged President Aquino to end the Visiting Forces Agreement on the fifth anniversary of the alleged rape of a Filipino woman by an American soldier taking part in military exercises at the Subic Bay Freeport on November 1, 2005.
“As we, the members of the women-led alliance, Task Force Subic Rape (TFSR), remember that heartrending day, we are greatly dismayed that the Aquino [administration] seems to be bent on merely refining the agreement rather than on effecting its termination as expressed in the Joint Resolution No. 3 of Congress,” the TFSR said in a statement.
The task force’s members include at least 18 nongovernment organizations.
The case of the Filipino woman, known as “Nicole,” raised issues on whether Philippine courts have jurisdiction over the case and custody over Lance Corporal Daniel Smith given the terms in the VFA, which the Senate approved in 1999.
In April 2009, the Court of Appeals reversed the 2007 decision of the Makati City regional trial court and acquitted Smith of raping Nicole. A month before the CA handed its decision, Nicole recanted her testimony that she was raped by Smith. She left the country for the United States shortly after.
Nicole was on vacation at the Subic Bay Freeport in 2005 and went to a bar where she met Smith. The alleged rape occurred in a van driven by a Filipino employed by a contractor of the US military.
The TFSR said Nicole’s case led “many people to realize what campaigners for sovereignty had been warning about the VFA since the 1990s.”
“[The VFA] is mainly for the protection of US soldiers. Some of its provisions on purpose were made ambiguous to give the US government more leg room for maneuver while preventing outright outrage from patriotic Filipinos,” it said.
Smith was detained at the US Embassy compound in Manila for the duration of the trial and the CA’s review of his case due to a provision in the VFA that allows the US Embassy to retain custody of American servicemen who have pending cases in the country.
“Nicole’s case once again made us see the stark reality of Philippine-American relations: It has never been equal, is never mutually beneficial,” the task force said.
University of the Philippines professor Roland Simbulan, author of the book “Forging a Nationalist Foreign Policy,” said from the very beginning, “the Subic rape case trial was a disadvantage given the special treatment to the accused military respondents.”
“The full weight and resources of the US government were mobilized to hire expensive lawyers from the country’s top law firms to litigate the case in defense of the US military respondents,” he said.
Simbulan said Philippine officials from the departments of justice and foreign affairs and the VFA Commission, “in their public statements, not only prejudged the case in favor of the accused, but even later took the side of the superpower on the issue of custody of the convicted soldier.”
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