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Commit Smith to Philippine jail, junk VFA

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Press Statement
Innabuyog-GABRIELA Cordillera

Reference: Vernie Yocogan-Diano, acting Chairperson
Mila Lingbawan, acting Secretary-general

The verdict on the Subic Rape case convicted Corporal Daniel Smith to 40 years of imprisonment. The three other servicemen watched the incident happen and even cheered for Smith to go on, were acquitted and were flown immediately to Okinawa, Japan just after the court’s handling down of the verdict.

Representative Liza Maza of the Gabriela Women’s Party calls this as Solomonic political compromise. The three other servicemen were still party to the crime. In a forum organized by Innabuyog last December 5, Atty Alnie Foja, legal counsel of the GWP explained that the three other servicemen should have likewise been convicted as Smith. Silkwood, Duplantis and Carpentier were present in the van where the act was committed and even cheered for Smith to go on. What they did were clear acts of conspiracy.

The verdict offers partial relief and victory for Nicole and to progressive women’s organizations and patriotic organizations who awaited for the outcome of the case a year for more than a year. But the battle is far from over. Victory and justice in this case will only be completely realized with the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the root of this abuse of a Filipino woman. Such has been the point of criticism of Innabuyog, GABRIELA and other women’s organizations in the country and overseas. At this time that the VFA is being invoked on the issue of Smith’s custody, Innabuyog is ever more convinced how lopsided indeed the VFA is to the US.

The VFA grants extra-territorial and extra-judicial privileges to US troops taking part in the joint military exercises (Balikatan) with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in any part of the Philippine soil. Nicole’s rapists were here as visiting forces. The VFA provides that Philippine authorities shall waive their primary right to exercise jurisdiction upon request by the US authorities. With US in control, what sovereignty and patrimony as a nation can we still speak of?

Smith may be freed from serving his sentence and that’s not far from happening. We have seen how prepared the US was in quickly bringing to safety the three acquitted US servicemen. The US embassy in Manila is already bullying for Smith’s custody.

Gaining justice for Nicole and the Filipino people in this case will strongly depend on the political will of Philippine authorities. Innabuyog does not put faith on Malacanang, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Justice to assert Philippine jurisdiction over Smith. Innabuyog condemns DOJ Secretary Gonzales’ recommendation that Smith be kept in the US embassy.

Justice in this case resides in the collective action of the Filipino women and people. Let us remain vigilant and continue our militant actions for the VFA’s abrogation. Let us urge the House of Representatives to pursue its House Resolution #171 which was approved and signed by Speaker de Venecia on June 8, 2006 urging PGMA to uphold the dignity of Filipino women by asserting Philippine jurisdiction and custody of suspects in the Subic Rape case.

Innabuyog warns GMA that her inaction in defending Nicole’s victory in court will only send severe blows on her administration. Now is her chance to show her will in defending the dignity and welfare of Filipino women and of the nation. Let us urge the US military troops to stay out from the Asia-Pacific region.