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(Update) MANILA, Philippines – Lawyers and supporters willing to help “Vanessa” admitted Thursday they are left helpless after the alleged rape victim changed her mind and decided not to press rape charges against an American serviceman.

Lawyer Evalyn Ursua said “Vanessa” initially wanted to lodge a complaint against the supposed rapist – identified only as “John Jones” – but changed her mind at the last minute after considering the outcome of the rape case of another US soldier Lance Corporal Daniel Smith.

Ursua – legal counsel of Smith’s victim, Suzette “Nicole” Nicolas – rushed to the side of “Vanessa” and offered to help the new rape victim in case she decided to bring the matter to court.

“Ang gusto talaga namin ay dumating itong kasong ito sa korte. Iyan and ideal situation. Pero wala kaming magawa dahil ang biktima ay ayaw magsampa ng kaso,” the lawyer said in a press conference in Quezon City.

[We really want this incident to reach the court. That would be the ideal situation. But we cannot do anything since the victim refuses to file charges.]

Vanessa said she decided not to wage a legal battle for fear that the government, particularly the Philippine courts, would only rule in favor of Jones, just like what happened in Smith’s case.

Smith – a participant in the 2005 joint RP-US military exercise – was convicted in December 2006 of raping Nicole in Subic Bay. The lower court decision was later reversed last April by the Court of Appeals, and Smith immediately flew out of the country.

Before the CA reversal came out, Nicole issued an affidavit saying she no longer was sure whether or not Smith had raped her. At the same time, Nicole flew for the United States for good.

“That was one of Vanessa’s considerations. We learned a lesson from Nicole’s case. It showed how the government and the (Philippine) justice system treated the case. That was one of Vanessa’s fear,” Ursua said.

Ursua stressed they were respecting Vanessa’s decision not to file charges.

“Maybe what she wanted to happen was to vent out her grievances. That’s her way of helping herself, for healing and recovery,” she said.

Ursua expressed hopes that Vanessa would still reconsider her decision not to press charges. “Hindi natin alam kung ano ang desisyon niya in the future… But it’s possible [We don’t know how she will decide in the future. But it’s possible she will file charges],” she said.

The lawyer said a rape case cannot necessarily file rape case against Jones with “the people of the Philippines” acting as respondents.

“Kailangan pa rin niya na initiate ang pagsampa ng reklamo at dadaan pa rin siya ng preliminary investigation [Vanessa still has to initiate the rape case and undergo a preliminary investigation],” she said.

Rape?

During Thursday’s press conference at Gabriela’s main office in Quezon City, Vanessa – with her face covered – read out to reporters a detailed account of the events that happened on the day she was raped. In the middle of her speech, Vanessa broke into sobs.

Vanessa, a 22-year-old college student, claimed she was sexually assaulted by Jones on April 19 at hotel in a five-star hotel in Makati City.

Vanessa said she met Jones on April 10 in a bar in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City and had a series of text messages after that.

On the wee hours of April 19, Vanessa went out to a bar with her cousin and friend. Minutes later, Jones texted Vanessa and asked if he could also dropped by the bar where she was.

Jones arrived at the bar along with three other female friends. The US serviceman then asked Vanessa to accompany him to the Makati hotel where he was billeted, saying they would later be joined by other friends.

But to Vanessa’s surprise, no other people arrived in Jone’s room. It was at that time that Vanessa said she was raped. After the incident, Vanessa rushed to the hotel security to report the incident.

Vanessa was later asked to go by policemen to get a certification for her rape allegations before she underwent a medico-legal examination.

Prepared for raps

Gabriela said it currently does not have enough information about Vanessa’s alleged abuser except that Jones is a US Marine belonging to the Joint United States Military Assistance Group sent to the Philippines for this year’s Balikatan Exercises.

Ursua said they currently have no idea whether or not Jones has already left the country.

In case Vanessa changes her mind and decides to file charges, Ursua assured that they have all the required documents needed in the case including the victim’s sworn affidavit, a medico-legal report, as well as a photograph of the US serviceman.

Ursua lamented how violently Vanessa was treated by the US serviceman, saying bruises have appeared on the victim’s neck – a point Vanessa’s camp could use against Jones if the case goes to court. “Ang physical evidence ay nakita ng doctor na tumingin sa kaniya [The doctor who examined her saw physical evidence].” with Sophia Dedace, GMANews.TV

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