Thursday, November 10, 2005

Retraction will not sink rape case, says DOJ

JUSTICE Secretary Raul Gonzalez yesterday said the alleged rape case slapped by a 22-year-old Filipina against six US Marines will push through despite the reported retraction by a driver who witnessed the alleged crime of his affidavit.

Gonzalez said a retraction would not cause the dismissal of the case as prosecutors still have the complaint from the victim and other physical evidence that will be presented against US servicemen Albert Lara, Keith Silkwood, Daniel Smith, Corey Barris, Chad Carpenter and Dominic Duplantis.

Subpoenas were served to them Tuesday through the US Embassy which has them in custody.

The accused were participants of the recently concluded US Talon and amphibious landing military exercises.

Gonzalez said while the statement of Timoteo Soriano, the driver of the Starex van that was rented by the Americans and where the alleged rape took place on Nov. 1, would help strengthen the case, it is just a "bonus" as most rape cases have no witnesses except for the complainant and alleged offender.

"There are these developments that we have no control of at this point. But right now, the victim I think is very firm so whether this driver recants or not I think we still have a case," he said in a press conference in Malacañang.

He said he has yet to see the alleged retraction of Soriano.

He earlier said Soriano could be charged with perjury and as an accomplice if he would retract his statement. Soriano in a recent TV interview changed his initial statement that there was gang rape, saying the victim was "having fun" with the suspects.

Gonzalez also said that while the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) allows the accused to remain in US custody while the case is on trial, it would not prevent the Philippines from convicting and insisting that the US soldiers serve their sentence if they are found guilty.

"If there is a conviction, if there is no appeal for example, the judgment of the court will have to be followed. That is when they must be surrendered already. (During) the duration of the trial, they can keep custody. But after the trial, they must surrender custody," he said.

Gonzalez said the US government, invoking provisions of the VFA, earlier requested for custody of the US soldiers, which the Philippine government could not refuse.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said it was premature and unfair to say there would be a whitewash of the case as investigation is still being conducted.

Ermita said they expect continued mass actions and "a lot howl from different sectors" because of the case. He said they are just hoping that the opposition would not exploit the issue.

"I can only say maybe we should await the action of government as well as reactions coming from the US side … before we can even make any judgment on the outcome of the case," he said.

"While we wait for justice to take its course, let us do our best to respect the victim’s right to privacy and the suspects’ right to a fair and impartial hearing. Be assured that the DOJ will be providing constant updates on this case," he added.

The justice department said daily hearings wil be held to make sure that the VFA provision for criminal cases to be resolved in a year will be met.

Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño said the prosecution and the defense could jointly ask the Supreme Court to designate a special court to hear the rape case.

Zuño also said the accused need not be physically present during the preliminary hearings on November 23 and 29 at the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office, and they may submit their sworn statements before any prosecutor outside the premises of the US embassy.

This is so because the US Embassy is considered US territory, he said.

"The moment we find probable cause and there is strong evidence and it’s been affirmed by court, the court may assert its authority over the case. The VFA can’t compromise the decision of court… The law of the land supersedes any treaties," he said.

Zuño said appearing before a prosecutor to give their counter-affidavits would work to the advantage of the accused American soldiers because the case would then be weighed not just on the evidence presented by the complainant.

"The accused can just subscribe to their counter-affidavit. They can submit it to the city prosecutor or any prosecutor, unless they decided to waive their right and wait for the resolution of the DOJ. They can decide to wait for the court trial, but only as a defense," he said.

He said he has received information that the US soldiers are going to engage the services of a local law firm to represent them in the case, rather than an American, who would have to get Philippine bar accreditation.

The victim’s mother has sought legal assistance from Sen. Richard Gordon.

"Inasmuch as we would want to protect my daughter and our family from further dilemma, we deem it appropriate to seek professional help in order for us to deal with or cope with the situation," the mother said in a Nov. 4 letter to Gordon.

Gordon’s help was sought in his capacity as chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross. Gordon acted on the request before he left for Korea on official business.

In a statement, Gordon said he has asked three lawyer-friends to help the family.

"We are already coordinating with three lawyers who have all agreed to help the victim in this case. The PNRC being a humanitarian organization is committed to assisting victims of all kinds of injustices," Gordon said.

Gordon refused to name the lawyers but said that one of them was a colleague from the ACCRA law office to which he was originally associated. Another is a former head of the legal department of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority of which Gordon was formerly chairman. The third is a lady lawyer who is a bar topnotcher who works at the Supreme Court.

Aside from legal help, Gordon said the PNRC would also provide psychological support such as stress debriefing and counseling.

The victim’s mother lamented that her daughter’s fate is now "gravely challenged following the rape incident."

"As it turned out, the case has become a national issue, eliciting strong reactions and even uproar from various sectors in society… For my daughter, the ordeal of living with fear, depression and humiliation is indeed very painful and even much more agonizing for a mother like me who sees her young daughter in moments of torment and despair," she added.

The mother said the family will pursue the case. "We are very much aware of the consequences that we have to face like the series of investigations, examinations and scrutiny from all concerned agencies and organizations, particularly the media, and all other vital procedures that we need to undergo," she said. – Jocelyn Montemayor Evangeline de Vera and Joan Dairo


Subic rape victim lalaban

(Boyet Jadulco/Tina Mendoza/Rose Miranda/Noel Abuel), Abante on-line

Nanindigan ang pamilya ng 22-anyos na Pinay na diumano’y ginahasa ng 6 US Marines na kanilang itutuloy ang laban at paghahanap ng hustisya sa kabila ng pag-atras ng isang testigo kamakailan.

Sa liham ng ina ng rape victim kay Sen. Richard Gordon na Governor din ng Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) hiningi nito ang tulong ng solon sa kontrobersyal na kasong kinasasangkutan ng kanyang anak.

Ikinuwento nito na ang kanyang anak ay dumaranas ngayon ng pagkatakot, depresyon at kahihiyan dahil sa naging national issue na ang kasong isinampa nito sa anim na Kanong nanggahasa sa kanya noong Undas.

Nangako naman si Gordon na bilang Governor ng PNRC, bibigyan nila ito ng legal at psychological support tulad ng debriefing, counseling at ang titirhan ng biktima at ng pamilya nito sa Olongapo City at sa Metro Manila habang nililitis ang kasong ito.

Samantala, sa rating na 1-10, nasa 8 ang tiyansa na magkaroon ng out-of-court settlement sa kasong rape laban sa 6 na US Marines kung kaya’t nangangailangan ng matinding mass support ang rape victim kun nais na maisulong ang kaso.

Sa Ciudad Fernandina Forum na ginanap sa Greenhills, San Juan, sinabi ni dating VFA Executive Director at kasalukuyang University of the East-College of Law Dean Amado Valdez, na sa laki ng impluwensiya ng Estados Unidos ay hindi imposible na ngayon pa lamang ay nagkakaroon na ng "gapangan" para malinis ang kaso o magkaroon ng amicable settlement.

Bagama’t desidido umano ang biktima na isulong ang kaso ay posible na magdalawang-isip ito sa oras na simulan na ang pormal na paglilitis kung saan malaki ang posibilidad na mailantad na sa publiko ang buong pagkatao kaya’t mahalagang makakuha ito ng suporta sa publiko para maging matatag.


Iginiit ni Valdez na hindi ang US Embassy ang s’yang dapat na magkustodya sa 6 na US Marines dahil hindi ito ang s’yang naaayon sa VFA laws.

Sa ilalim ng VFA rules, ang US military authorities umano ang siyang dapat na magkustodya at hindi ang US Embassy na maituturing na foreign land bagama’t nasa Philippine territory.

Hinamon ni Valdez ang Department of Foreign Affairs na magsampa ng diplomatic protest at hingan ng paliwanag ang Ambassador ng Estados Unidos sa Pilipinas kung bakit nasa US Embassy nanatili ang mga akusado.

Kaugnay nito, sinabi ni Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez na hindi puwedeng gamitin na basehan ang VFA upang makalusot sa parusang bitay ang mga US soldiers.

Sa panayam sa Malacañang, sinabi ni Gonzalez na kahit na may VFA ay may hurisdiksyon ang Philippine government na ipataw ang anumang magiging parusa sa mga Amerikanong sundalo sakaling mapatunayan na nagkasala ang mga ito sa kaso.

Ayon kay Gonzalez, hindi puwedeng i-extradite ang sinumang banyagang akusado kung ang bansa na nagkaso sa mga ito ay may death penalty tulad ng Pilipinas.


Pinag-aaralan na umano ng Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB) ang kanilang magiging hatol kay Timotheo Soriano, ang driver ng Starex van na ginamit na sasakyan ng 6 na US Marines sa panghahalay sa Pinay dahil sa ginawa nitong pagbaligtad sa testimonya nito.

Ito ang nabatid ng Abante mula sa isang source, kasabay ng pagsasabing isang grupo ng kababaihan ang nakikipag-ugnayan ngayon sa pamunuan ng ABB, gayundin sa Melito Glor Command ni Gregorio ‘Ka Roger’ Rosal upang idulog ang ginawa umanong ‘kataksilan sa bayan’ ni Soriano

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