Saturday, April 22, 2006

Prosecutor quits over downgrading of charges

(Gulf News Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Manila: A city prosecutor in northern Luzon has resigned after the downgrading of the charges filed against three of the four American servicemen who were earlier accused of raping a 22-year-old Filipina at the former American naval base last year.

"I was not satisfied with the decision of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales," said Prosecutor Prudencio Jalandoni of Olongapo, Zambales, adding he resigned from the case as he thought that all the four American servicemen should be charged as principal suspects.

"There was enough evidence of conspiracy," said Jalandoni, who belied the belief that the absence of a gang rape should not merit the charging of the four American servicemen as principal suspects.

"I will wait for his letter of formal resignation," said Gonzales.

On Tuesday, Gonzalez announced that only Lance Corporal Daniel Smith should be charged as a principal suspect, adding that Lance Corporals Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis, and Staff Sergeant Chad Carpentier should be charged as accessories to the crime.

There was not enough evidence to prove that the four conspired to rape the alleged victim, Gonzales argued, adding he even wanted to exonerate them.

"I do not foresee the resignation of the other justices who are part of the prosecuting panel," said Prosecutor Feliciano A. Aspi of Makati City, also head of the panel of prosecutors.

Earlier, the prosecutors agreed that the trial of the US servicemen should be held at the Makati City regional trial court, and not at a lower court in central Luzon.

Last year's rape case has become an emotional issue among Filipinos who saw it as a reason for the government to review the guidelines for American servicemen who are holding joint war games with Filipino soldiers in the Philippines.

The Senate in 1998 approved the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which allowed the resumption of joint war-games.

US-Philippine joint exercises have been used as anti-terror training, mostly held in the southern Philippines, the alleged haven of Islamic militants.

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