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Tag Archives: sexual assualt

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.