I'M glad that the Philippine Justice Department officials are going ahead with the rape case against the US Marines, charging four of the original six Marines arrested with rape of a Filipino woman in Olongapo City on Nov. 1.
I wrote a column in November questioning the charge of rape, since it had seemed the woman in question had joined the Marines voluntarily in a drinking spree at a bar in Olongapo. At the time, we didn't know the results of the medical examination of the victim. Now we do. The report says that the victim had severe bruising of her vagina, something that would not occur in consensual sex.
The defense's allegations that rape did not take place because none of the victim's clothes were ripped, no drug use was detected and a condom was used, are really rather ridiculous. Sex that started out initially as voluntary and consensual can rapidly degenerate into forced sex, or rape. I think it's important to make that distinction.
But I also think that it is important to note that the victim was alone in a bar, and she voluntarily joined a group of horny, young soldiers. Who in their right mind would do so? If, as the victim's family insists she is from a good family and a college graduate, she obviously didn't approach the men looking for money in exchange for sex. That would be prostitution. Still, she was obviously dumb or just looking for a good time.
In any case, the four Marines should be punished for what they did and face the consequences both in the Philippines and back home in the United States. US Embassy sources say that court-martial proceedings have started against the four in Okinawa, Japan, the home base of these Marines.
Meanwhile, Olongapo City officials have said that their city is suffering the economic consequences of the rape as US war ships are no longer docking there, instead going to Singapore. For sure, this means a loss of much income which is usually generated from these naval visits.
Rapes occur all over the world, but in this case I think there is an additional erroneous presumption on the part of American soldiers that all Asian women, especially Filipinos, are loose women that are either so desperate for money or a Green Card that they will submit themselves to every whim of a American man, even if it means being raped.
To correct this presumption, the four US Marines must be punished and spend a few months, at minimum, in a Filipino jail, apart from being dishonorably discharged from the military.
For their part, Filipino women must also send the message that they are not easy prey for horny American soldiers. A good first step would be to not go out drinking with them alone. There is power and safety in numbers. Unfortunately when you are alone, friendly and seemingly nice men can quickly turn into ravenous monsters, especially when their inhibitions and sense of decency have been severally blunted by the intake of alcohol.
How the US handles this case will a be a test of how the Bush administration views its relations not only with the Philippines, but with all of Asia.