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Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2006 at 1:11 PM
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-- News sources today, quoted rape victim's mother describing her family's continuing fight for justice as a bout between David and Goliath, the mother of rape victim "Nicole" on Monday broke her silence and scored the government for siding with the US on the custody dispute over her daughter's convicted rapist.
Rape Victim's Mother Accused Arroyo of Siding with the U.S.
MANILA -- News sources today, quoted rape victim's mother describing her family's continuing fight for justice as a bout between David and Goliath, the mother of rape victim "Nicole" on Monday broke her silence and scored the government for siding with the US on the custody dispute over her daughter's convicted rapist.
Reached through phone on Monday, Nicole's mother let out her anger at the government for concurring with the US claim of custody over Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, an issue that had strained diplomatic relations between the two countries.
"Galit na talaga ako... Sana patas ang laban, pero ngayon nakikialam na si Gloria (President Macapagal Arroyo)... Sana man lang kahit papaano ipagtanggol niya ang Pilipino (I am really angry... I just wish we fight fair, but now Gloria is meddling with it... I just hope somehow she could defend the Filipino)," she said.
"Our fight is like that of David and Goliath. We never got any help from the government throughout this fight, we never asked anybody for help. It was my family that worked for this... And that VFA? (Visiting Forces Agreement), it's only them (government) that benefits from it," added the long-time civilian employee of the Philippine Navy.
According to news sources, Nicole, her family and legal team have been opposed to the US retaining custody over Smith, the 21-year-old Marine convicted and jailed on Dec. 4 for raping the Filipino woman last year. The legal dispute is now pending before the Court of Appeals.
News agencies in Manila also reported that the Arroyo government, meanwhile, through the justice and foreign affairs departments and Malacañang, have been asserting the right of the US to maintain custody of Smith while he appeals his conviction, in compliance with the country's obligations under the VFA.
It was widely reportd thar the US military recently announced the cancellation of the RP-US war games next year because of the custody dispute. In light of the announcement, the Office of the Solicitor General filed before the appellate court on Friday another agreement between the Philippines and the US for Smith's return to the US Embassy, with Philippine authorities given "inspection rights."
The VFA, a treaty that spells out legal protection of US troops while engaged in military exercises here, has been invoked by Smith, the US Embassy and the Philippine government in insisting his return to US authorities. Under the agreement, the US must retain custody of American soldiers on trial in Philippine courts throughout the duration of judicial proceedings.
Both Philippine and US authorities have said the provision applied until the end of the appeals process, which Smith intends to pursue.
But Makati Judge Benjamin Pozon, in dismissing Smith's petition for a return to American custody on Dec. 13, ruled that "the custody of accused Smith by the US military authorities was terminated after the completion of the trial and rendition of the judgment of conviction."
Pozon committed Smith to the Makati City Jail (MCJ) on Dec. 4, when he found him guilty of raping Nicole at the back of a Starex van during a short ride at the Subic Bay Freeport before midnight on Nov. 1, 2005.
As jail officials explained that the only convict at the MCJ could not be mixed with crime suspects detained there, Smith was initially held at the records section of the jail house and later transferred to what used to be a storage room, where he is under round-the-clock watch of US military officers.
A Mother's lament on Philippine government puppetry to the U.S.
While her daughter achieved a partial victory with Smith's conviction, her mother could only lament that her family still has to go another struggle.
"I spent millions and this will happen? This is unfair... We spent our own money for this case then he [Smith] will not be jailed? Now, our enemy is our own government, not just the Americans," she said, spilling her anger in Filipino.
She said she had already spent around P2.3 million throughout the yearlong trial to pay for fare expenses in bringing herself and Nicole's siblings to Manila from their native Zamboanga and back, Nicole's household expenses in the Metro Manila house where she had been staying, food expenses, the duplication of pleadings and court transcripts,
"I have spent my savings out of my 25 years of service with the human resources department [of the Philippine Navy]. I have several loans I have yet to pay for. I have sold property. My daughter working in Italy could not even call me this Christmas day because all she has earned in the past month she sent me for our expenses during the trial," she said.
"My children now, they have nothing special this Christmas... We used to have grand Christmas celebrations but now, we can't," she continued. She added that her family's remaining saving grace was her canteen at the Zamboanga military base, one frequented by both Filipino and US servicemen.
She added that the P100,000 worth of damages the court awarded her daughter, still unpaid for as Smith is bent on appealing his case, could not compensate for the financial and emotional trauma her family experienced because of the case.
"Yung P100,000, pang-taxi ko lang 'yon eh... Ganon na lang pala kamura ang babae sa Pilipinas ngayon, ganon na lang pala kamura ang dangal ng babae ngayon (That P100,000 would only cover my taxi expenses. So, this is how cheap a woman is in the Philippines. This is how cheap a woman’s honor is)," she said.
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