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News Release

May 14, 2009

VFA discourages rape victims of US troops from filing cases – Bayan

Amid the latest incident involving an American soldier raping a Filipina, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan blamed the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement as the “main obstacle” that prevents victims from pursuing their case in court.

In a press conference with the women’s group Gabriela, rape victim “Vanessa” disclosed how she was lured by a US military from the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG). According to the women’s group, the victim has not decided to file a case against her rapist though there are already documents to support her claim.

“The bigger tragedy in the recent rape case is the view of the victim that she cannot get justice under Philippine law. The Nicole case and the acquittal or rapist Daniel Smith discourages victims from pursuing their case in court,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“So long as the VFA remains an anchor of RP-US relations, it will always weigh heavily on any criminal case involving US troops. So-called US relations will always take precedence. What can the victim expect from a legal system that acquitted Smith and called rape a ‘romantic episode’?” he added.

Bayan called on the Philippine Senate to exercise its oversight function and review the VFA, 10 years after Senate ratified it on May 27, 1999.

“The VFA has spawned so many problems, from rape to corruption, to human rights abuses. It is high time that the agreement be exposed for what it really is. It is a grossly one-sided pact that undermines our sovereignty and legal system,” Reyes said.

Bayan called the JUSMAG as “a permanent US military and intelligence outpost on Philippine soil”. The head of the JUSMAG is the representative of the Commander of the US Pacific Command. Its office is located at the US embassy in Roxas Boulevard in Manila.It used to be known as the Joint US Military Advisory Group.

“The JUSMAG has long operated in the country through the cold-war relic that is the Mutual Defense Treaty. It encompasses a broad range of activities including advising the AFP, conducting joint military exercises and facilitating various forms of military assistance,” Reyes said.  ###

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