THE conviction of US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith on Monday afternoon by the Makati Regional Trial Court was fair in my opinion because of the overwhelming amount of physical evidence collected and presented during the trial.
The rape victim, "Nicole", admittedly did not fit the bill of being innocent and inexperienced. Instead she admitted to being friends with another US soldier, who subsequently invited Nicole and her sister to spend a weekend in Subic, Olongapo, with him last year. It was during that weekend that Nicole was raped by Smith in a van, with his three friends Lance Corporals Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis and Staff Sergeant Chad Carpentier allegedly cheering him while he had sex with Nicole in the back of the van.
Many commentators, myself included, initially cast doubt on the story of Nicole, saying that she willingly went to a bar with the soldiers, drank heavily with them, flirted and danced sexily with Smith. She even left the bar voluntarily with them, though she was extremely drunk. It was while she was in the van making out with Smith that their two stories diverge. Smith says that she wanted to have sex with him, and even helped him guide his penis into her vagina. She denies this, saying she struggled, said no repeatedly and then passed out. When she awoke, she found herself abandoned on a roadside, her panties and jeans pulled down around her ankles.
Yet as a legal analyst on the ANC channel Monday morning said, "Even a prostitute can be raped."
Nicole was examined by a doctor who found contusions and bruises in her vagina, indicating violent and non-consensual sex. This alone should have been good enough for conviction of Smith, especially since Nicole passed out from too much drink during the sex, and thus couldn't have been able to give her consent or not.
Already an American reader has written to me asking if the verdict was fair, and I replied that it had been. The three acquitted friends of Smith have already been flown back to their US base in Okinawa, Japan, and now the Philippine and US governments have to decide under whose custody Smith will remain as he appeals his conviction. Under the 1992 Visiting Forces Agreement signed between the two countries after the Philippine Senate voted not to renew a treaty that allowed the US to maintain military bases in the Philippines, the US has the right to remain in custody of any US serviceman accused of a crime until all legal remedies are exhausted. Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Rafael Seguis admitted this on television Monday evening, erasing any doubts that may have remained in any one's mind.
I don't think Philippine-US relations will be adversely affected by this ruling. As former senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani said in a TV interview, the Philippines needed to set the boundaries and tell its superpower ally, the US, that it couldn't cross those lines. Judge Benjamin Pozon did just that. I just pity the poor family of Smith, who must be having nightmares about what their son will be facing in the horribly overcrowded Philippine jails.