Saturday, April 22, 2006

Gonzalez: Cheering is not proof of rape conspiracy

THE ACTION of three United States servicemen in allegedly “cheering on” colleague Daniel Smith as he allegedly raped a 22-year-old Filipina in Subic last year does not make them “co-conspirators” in the crime of rape.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said this as he defended his decision to modify the charges against US Marines Keith Silkwood, Dominic Duplantis and Chad Carpentier from “principal to accessories” in the crime of rape.

“The mere fact that the respondents were laughing is not proof of conspiracy,” Gonzalez said in a 20-page resolution of the petition for review filed by Silkwood, Duplantis and Carpentier.

The three allegedly encouraged Smith to rape the woman in a Kia Starex van in November 2005 by shouting: “Go! Smith! Go!”

According to the Gonzalez resolution, the victim, in her sworn affidavit dated Nov. 2, 2005, claimed that while Smith was allegedly raping her, the three US Marines were laughing and egging him on.

Gonzalez said that the victim’s statement “Ang mga kasama niya ay tuwang tuwa” (his companions were very happy), was not enough to prove that the three had “conspired and agreed to a common desire to commit the crime of rape.”

“Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a crime and decided to commit it,” he wrote.

Gonzalez said the facts and circumstances of the case showed that the complainant “miserably failed to produce evidence that will measure up to the quantum evidence necessary to establish a prima facie case” or probable cause against Silkwood, Duplantis and Carpentier.

But the three certainly knew “what was going on in the back seat of the van” but did not do anything about it, so they should be charged as accessories, he said.

Gonzalez also said there could not have been a gang rape as alleged because “the physical condition of the van will not allow a conclusion of gang rape.”

The justice secretary said he would order justice prosecutors to file a motion to withdraw the previous charge and file a new one indicting Smith as principal, while downgrading the charges against Silkwood, Duplantis and Carpentier.

Smith remained a principal accused not only because of the strong evidence against him but because he did not file a counter-affidavit to refute the charges, Gonzalez said.

The Gabriela women’s group said Gonzalez’s downgrading of the charges against the three US servicemen was tantamount to acquitting them.

“Most probably, it is a prelude to other maneuvers in the case that will eventually lead to the absolution of the suspects,” said Gabriela deputy secretary general Lana Linaban in a statement.

Gabriela party-list Representative Liza Maza, who represents the group in Congress, accused Gonzalez of deliberately weakening the Subic rape case so that all four accused would be exonerated in the end.

“The downgrading of the charges is an outrage and reeks of a sell-out. This weakens the case and jeopardizes the victim’s quest for justice,” said Maza. With reports from Michael Lim Ubac and Norman Bordadora - INQ7

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