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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

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro, secgen@bayanusa.org

May 14, 2009 www.bayanusa.org

Appalled by the double-news of the rape of another Filipina woman by a U.S. Marine and the increase in U.S. financial aid to the corrupt Philippine government, BAYAN-USA reiterated its call to terminate the U.S.-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (“VFA”), which the alliance of 14 Filipino American organizations in the U.S. sees as the red carpet used to usher in U.S. troops, supplies, and military training linked to thousands of human rights violations.

Under the auspices of the VFA, over 6,000 US troops were deployed to the Philippines this past April, to engage in so-called Balikatan (“shoulder-to-shoulder”) military exercises. In a press conference today, the 22-year-old Filipina “Vanessa” (not her real name) told the story of how she was raped in a hotel room on April 19 by a U.S. Marine, registered in hotel records as “from Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group/Balikatan.” According to the women’s group GABRIELA, Vanessa has decided not to file a case against her alleged rapist though there is evidence to support her claim.

“We are outraged that another Filipina has become the victim of U.S. troops, and that the VFA is blocking her from obtaining justice,” said BAYAN-USA Secretary General Rhonda Ramiro. “Last month’s acquittal of convicted rapist Lance Corporal Daniel Smith signals that U.S. military personnel can get away with the most heinous crimes on Philippine soil because they will be protected by the VFA.”

BAYAN-USA claims that despite its rhetoric of “change,” the administration of President Barack Obama has clung to Bush’s foreign policy when it comes to war and military deployment overseas. Earlier this year, President Obama phoned Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to express support for the VFA and continuing the Balikatan joint military exercises. The estimated total expense borne by U.S. taxpayers for U.S. militarization in the Philippines since the VFA was enacted nearly 10 years ago is a lofty $1 billion. An additional $660 million—up from a reported $400 million just one month ago—is reportedly set to be spent over the next few years.

“The only ‘change’ we see is the change being pocketed by the Arroyo government to rape and terrorize the Filipino people,” declared Ramiro. “Arroyo, her military, and multinational corporations are getting rich off the millions of dollars being paid by the U.S. government to commit torture, abductions, false imprisonment, and ultimately extrajudicial killings to silence critics of Arroyo and her neoliberal economic policies.”

This latest rape case and report of increased aid to the Philippines comes on the heels of an April 29, 2009 report by Philip Alston, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, which states that the Philippine government has failed to institute the substantive reforms Alston recommended to address extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses in the country.

“The fact that hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used to commit rape and other human rights atrocities is unconscionable, especially now that we are in the midst of a depression,” stated Ramiro. “The fact that the VFA is being funded and enforced by the Obama administration is hypocrisy, especially after President Obama promised hope and change.”

In response, BAYAN-USA has announced it will conduct a “Day of Action against the VFA” on May 27, 2009 which marks the 10th anniversary of the military agreement. In synch with mobilizations in the Philippines calling for the termination of the VFA, the Day of Action will take place from coast-to-coast across the U.S. in what will be the latest expression of the indignation felt by Filipino Americans over the trampling of Philippine sovereignty by U.S. imperial interests. In March, BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA USA launched an online “Junk VFA” petition, which garnered over 1,000 signatures in two weeks and has reached nearly 2,000 signatures to date. At the beginning of May, BAYAN-USA also met with the office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, to urge the representative—who is a member of the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Foreign Operations—to support the call for the termination of all military aid to the Philippines pending the Philippine government’s compliance with recommendations in the Alston report to stop human rights violations and prosecute the perpetrators. The BAYAN-USA delegation also asked Representative Lee to introduce new legislation to stop the deployment of U.S. troops to the Philippines unless the said recommendations are implemented and to terminate the VFA.

“BAYAN-USA’s Day of Action against the VFA will send Congress the message that nobody wins and everybody loses with the VFA,” said Ramiro. “In the face of a budget deficit in the trillions and over 11 million people unemployed in the U.S., it simply makes no sense to continue providing aid to the Arroyo government and to perpetuate the costly VFA. Congress should cut both during the budget appropriations process this spring and summer.”

BAYAN-USA is an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As an international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. The online petition against the VFA can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow/

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By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 16:11:00 02/28/2009

Filed Under: Rape, Crime, Justice & Rights, Diplomacy, Women, Military

MANILA, Philippines — A women’s party-list group on Saturday assailed a United States military court’s dismissal of a rape case filed by a young Filipino woman against an American soldier in Okinawa, Japan.

“In strongest terms, we condemn the decision of the US Court Martial in Okinawa as an act of absolution and arrogance of the US government in the pursuit of justice of Hazel and the other victims of rape and abuse by US military soldiers,” Gabriela Representative Liza Maza said in a statement.

Quoting news reports, the party-list group said Army Judge Colonel Donna Wright of the US Court Martial in Okinawa last Tuesday dismissed the case against Army Specialist Ronald Hopstock for lack of sufficient evidence.

This was the second legal setback for the victim, identified in the press as Hazel, who earlier lost a criminal case she filed with the Japanese courts in June 2008.

Maza said the government should appeal to President Obama, as the US commander in chief, to get the decision reviewed. “The evidence is clear as day,” she said.

The Inquirer tried but failed to reach Bayani Mangibin, spokesman of the Department of Foreign Affairs, for comment.

Hazel, then 21, was allegedly raped inside a hotel in Okinawa on February 18, 2008, three days after she arrived there to work as a cultural dancer. She filed a case in court, but this was dismissed for insufficient evidence. She decided to stay to pursue the case in the military court.

The non-government organization Migrante in Nagoya, Japan also condemned the dismissal of the case, calling this an “attack on the justice system.”

“This is not the way justice should be served. However, what can Hazel and the rest of her supporters in Okinawa and elsewhere expect from a military court whose players all carry the same badge?” it said in a statement.

“We ask Judge Wright: How much evidence do you need? And how many women-victims do you want to come forward to prove Hopstock’s guilt?” Migrante asked.

“Hazel is not a prostitute, nor is she a bad woman as what the accused and his likes have portrayed her in media,” it said, pointing out that she flew to Okinawa to work as an entertainer to support a twin sister who met an accident and needed medical attention.

Migrante also hit the Arroyo administration for “turning its back on Hazel and for not lifting its finger to ensure that justice is served.”

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.

JUNK THE VFA!
JUSTICE FOR NICOLE!
PUNISH DANIEL SMITH FOR HIS CRIME!

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News Release
April 23, 2009

Reference: Rhonda Ramiro, Secretary-General, BAYAN USA, email: secgen@bayanusa.org

SMITH ACQUITTAL A COLLABORATIVE MANEUVER BY ARROYO & US GOV’T TO PROTECT VFA– BAYAN USA

BAYAN-USA, an alliance of Filipino organizations in the United States, declared the recent court acquittal of US Marine Daniel Smith of a rape conviction back in 2006 as a collaborative move by the US and Arroyo governments to protect the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

The controversial decision comes right after a Philippine Supreme Court (SC) ruling to probe into the circumstances surrounding the affidavit issued by rape victim Nicole and the leakage of a draft Court of Appeals (CA) ruling of acquittal for Smith last week, prompting CA officials to act fast.

The 2005 rape of 22 year-old Filipina Nicole leading to the 2006 trial and conviction US Lance Corporal Smith was a landmark case that marked the first time in the 100+ history of US military presence in the country that a US military personnel was actually convicted under the Philippine judicial system for a crime committed in the Philippines. But the events following the 3091_72824424245_500774245_1500750_4784312_ncelebrated conviction, beginning with Smith’s transfer of custody from Philippine jurisdiction to the US Embassy drew such outrage and condemnation from the streets that it sparked a burgeoning patriotic movement inside Philippine Congress to abrogate the 10 year-old VFA military agreement, which allows for the “temporary basing” of US military troops in over 20 ports throughout the Philippine archipelago.

“Washington and Malacanang panicked,” states BAYAN USA Chair Berna Ellorin. “They needed to do something drastic to stunt the rallying opposition against the VFA. The sacrificial lambs they chose, without surprise, were a Filipina woman and Philippine national sovereignty. The Arroyo administration collaborated with the spin doctors of the US government to concoct this scheme to protect the VFA by undoing the last four years of the Nicole rape case. It’s very disgusting.”

Beginning with the historic conviction of Smith in 2006, the convicted rapist, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, was whisked to the US Embassy to serve his sentence and not in a Philippine detention facility. This drew protests demanding the US government hand Smith over to Philippine jurisdiction. Both the US and Arroyo governments cited stipulations in the VFA protecting US military personnel in their defense of keeping Smith out of a Philippine jail. But a 2009 SC ruling to re-negotiate Smith’s detention from the US Embassy to a Philippine facility was met with refusal by US Embassy officials to follow. The blatant act of denial by the US government to hand over Smith to Philippine jurisdiction prompted several Philippine lawmakers in the Philippine Congress to introduce a bill calling for the termination of the military agreement. In the weeks following, a questionable affidavit was hastily filed by Nicole which served as basis for a so-called “recantation” of her original testimony. It was reported that Smith’s lawyers drafted the affidavit language and persuaded Nicole to sign it before Nicole took off for the United States. After the SC ruling to investigate the circumstances around the affidavit-signing, a Manila reporter leaked news of a draft acquittal for Smith by the Philippine Court of Appeals.

Earlier this year, US President Barack Obama paid Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a phone call expressing support for continuing joint military exercises conducted between US and Philippine troops in the Philippines known as Balikatan, under the auspices of the VFA. This month, over 6000 US troops were deployed to the Philippine regions of Bicol, Central and Southern Luzon, and Zamboanga to conduct the said exercises. The estimated total expense for US militarization in the Philippines since the VFA was enacted has cost US taxpayers a lofty $1 billion; an additional $400 million is set to be spent over the next 10 years.

But Ellorin argued that the anti-VFA movement in the Philippines is larger than the Smith-Nicole gang-rape case of 2005-2006. It is about the context of historical unequal relations between the US and Philippines governments, one in which the US government “dictates and takes from the Philippines whatever it wants to serve its self-interest” while the Philippine government “obeys with complete subservience to the negligence of its own people.”

“The US-Arroyo government partnership in the Smith acquittal has made a mockery of the Philippines, as well as victims of all Filipinos and future generations of Filipinos,” Ellorin concluded. “But it will not stop the movement to abrogate the VFA. In fact, Filipinos all over the world, including the US, will be more compelled to terminate not only the VFA, but the Arroyo presidency, now more than ever.”

BAYAN USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino organizations in the United States, has been campaigning for the termination of the VFA and the withdrawal of US troops from the Philippines for four years. It even released an online petition calling for the abrogation of the VFA accessible at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow/. The signed petition will be presented by the alliance to US lawmakers and the Obama administration this year. ###