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News Release

14 May 2009

Reference: Emmi de Jesus, Secretary General, 371-2302 / 0917-3221203

On the heels of Subic rape case,

US troops continue abusing Filipinas – GABRIELA

As long as US troops freely roam the Philippines under the Visiting Forces Agreement, many more Filipinas will be abused by US servicemen. This was according to the women’s group GABRIELA in a press conference today. The women’s group cited the case of “Vanessa” (not her real name), a 22-year-old Filipina allegedly raped by a US Marine just last April 19.

The crime allegedly took place in the early morning of April 19 at the hotel room of the perpetrator, “John Jones” (not his real name). GABRIELA was able to confirm that the alleged perpetrator is a US military personnel listed in hotel records as “from Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG)/Balikatan.”

“The victim immediately sought the help of GABRIELA. Like many other rape survivors, Vanessa’s life has been thrown in shambles since the incident,” said Emmi de Jesus, GABRIELA secretary general.

GABRIELA said that although Vanessa is going through a difficult period, she has agreed to reveal her ordeal to let the public know that abuses by US servicemen against women continue.

“While rape victims have a strong desire to seek justice for the offense made against them, the decision to come out in public and pursue a legal case does not come easy. This decision is now even more difficult to make since another US personnel is involved, and with the events in the Subic rape case set as background,” said de Jesus.

Last April 23 the Court of Appeals acquitted L/Cpl. Daniel Smith who was earlier found guilty by the lower court.

The Subic rape case is the first ever criminal case against a US serviceman under the VFA that went to trial. More than 3,000 cases, including abuse of women and children, were filed against US servicemen at the height of the presence of US military bases in the country, but all were dismissed.

“The Arroyo government’s handling of the Subic rape case from the very beginning is unconscionable. The CA’s reversal of Smith’s conviction sends a clear signal that despite the glaring abuse of American soldiers on our people, the interests of the United States government take precedence over justice,” added de Jesus.

“The case of Vanessa only shows that the abuses will continue as long as the VFA is in effect. And justice will remain elusive as long as the VFA overrules our laws and undermines our sovereignty,” concluded de Jesus. ###
Public Information Department
GABRIELA National Office
(+632) 3712302


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.  ###

For Immediate Release
April 23, 2009

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chair, GABRIELA USA, 415-244-9734

Filipina-Americans in the United States express our disgust and anger at the 05_wo_philippines_smith01_4news that the Court of Appeals in the Philippines has acquitted Lance Corporal Smith in the 2005 rape case of “Nicole.” Lcpl. Smith was convicted of raping “Nicole” on December 4, 2006, and legalities around custody and sentencing has been ongoing for the past three years. Due to the highly contentious Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Smith has been in the custody of the U.S. Embassy instead of a Philippine prison. However, on March 12 of this year, a questionable recantation by “Nicole” was released while in the same month, monetary compensation and the termination of her legal counsel casted doubt on who prepared the content of the affidavit.

In this long and dirty case, US and Philippines collusion through loopholes in the VFA have demonstrated that in the Philippines, the rule of law and justice are commanded by American interests and corrupt politicians. The Court of Appeals has failed Filipino women worldwide. Instead of holding Smith accountable of rape, the appellate court has repealed the justice that was already rightfully won by “Nicole” and her family. After years of struggling and fighting with huge and broad support from Filipino organizations like 610xGABRIELA in the Philippines and worldwide, Smith’s acquittal from his legitimate conviction in 2006 is a betrayal to both Nicole and her loved ones, but also to all of the Filipino women, children and men who have been victims of sexual assault and crimes by US military servicemen.

Women’s accounts of rape and assault are often spun into heresy through the manipulation of justice under the auspices of governmental righteousness, as in the case of the US military occupation in the Philippines. Valerie Francisco, Vice Chair of GABRIELA USA stated, “We are witnessing ‘Nicole’s’ story becoming increasingly co-opted by the blind loyalty of the Philippines to American idealism about ‘helping’ us with our perpetual, undefined ‘war on terror.'” Francisco continued, “Nicole’s legacy will not stop at a recantation and acquittal. The fight for justice for Nicole, among so many other victims of militarized gender violence, will not cease at another silenced victim of US aggression.”

Today, when there are 10 women that are “delivered” nightly to US service men for Balikatan excercises, GABRIELA-USA calls for the end of the commodification of Filipino women. With U.S. military exercises held in Bicol this summer, the presence of US troops in very poor rural communities creates a demand that practically coerces local Filipinas into in the sex trade. This is due to the lack of economic options in highly militarized zones of the Philippines.

“This injustice will only fuel anti-VFA movement,” commented Raquel Redondiez, chair of GABRIELA USA, “Under Gloria Arroyo, this seemingly easy deal between the US and her administration for a convicted rapist was an exchange for Philippine sovereignty, justice and democratic ideals. Although Nicole’s family has been through enough and are tired of the trickery, Filipino women’s organizations from the Philippines to the US will continue the fight for justice for Nicole and all victims of sexual crimes under US occupation!”

GABRIELA USA, comprised of Sisters of Gabriela Awaken (SiGaW), Babae in San Francisco, Pinay Sa Seattle and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment in New York City, strongly denounces the acquittal of Lcpl. Daniel Smith and condemn the collaboration of the broken Philippine judicial system and US military interests for again revoking Nicole what was rightfully hers, justice and dignity. We challenge this decision and demand that the Philippine government and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo overturn this acquittal.