Friday, March 20, 2009

Another letter sent on the Cpl. Smith matter

Comment: "Nicole's" recantation of her rape charges lodged against American soldier Cpl. Daniel Smith in the Philippines has elicted much dismay. Many are angry at Nicole; many are rejecting the recantation out of hand, seemingly for reasons that have little to do with the actual case. Here is another letter I've sent to a prominent clergyman, Archbishop Lagdameo of the Philippines. He was quoted in a local newspaper as saying that the recantation put the Philippines’ criminal justice system “in an embarrassing situation” and that it confused rape victims. However, the article does not mention the Archbishop noting the possible injustice to Cpl. Smith, which is the paramount issue that needs to be everyone's primary concern.

His Excellency
Archbishop of Jaro
Archbishop's Residence, Jaro, 5000 Iloilo City

Your Excellency:

I write to respectfully express my sincere concerns about comments attributed to you in ("Isn't it strange? Why recant now, Nicole?" March 20, 2009) regarding the recantation of alleged rape victim "Nicole."

The news report states that you said the recantation had put the Philippines’ criminal justice system “in an embarrassing situation.” The report also notes that you "said other rape victims whose cases were still in court and who probably found some inspiration in Nicole’s legal victory in 2006 'would somehow be confused' by her current stance."

I am an advocate for men and boys falsely accused of rape, which is an epidemic in the United States and the UK. This epidemic affects priests and laypersons of every socio-economic class, and countless innocent males have suffered grievous harm because of the ease with which such false allegations are made. I expect that you would be sympathetic to our cause.

I do not assume that the news report contained all of your comments on this matter; nor do I assume that the report properly quoted you in context. However, as written, the comments are troubling for what they omit and, respectfully, require elaboration.

The possible injustice to Cpl.Smith, who is being detained for a crime his accuser now says he didn't commit, should be the paramount concern of all persons of good will.

If the recantation is true, then the injustice to the detained young man is incalculable. A false rape accusation is itself a crime, so Cpl. Smith and not Nicole might, in fact, be the actual victim in this unfortunate matter.

The embarrassment to the justice system, and the confusion of actual rape victims by the recantation, should be only secondary concerns. Justice for a young man facing decades of imprisonment for a crime he may not have committed needs to be our primary focus.

This recantation needs to be examined seriously, and if, after fair consideration, it casts reasonable doubt on the guilt of this young man, then justice dictates that he be freed. But it is most unjust to ignore the potential harm to the young man, as others unfortunately appear to be doing, simply because he is from the "wrong" country, or was born into the "wrong" gender, or due to a belief that his conviction advances some perceived political or social agenda apart from the actual criminal case.

I respectfully urge you to speak to the possible injustice to Cpl. Smith, consistent with long-standing Catholic teachings on fundamental justice. Focusing on the plight of this possibly innocent man will not be "politically correct." But it is important that the people hear from you about the critical importance of treating this man with dignity and justice.


Pierce Harlan