In light of this recantation, how on earth can they allow this young man to rot in a prison cell for 40 years? This needs to be reviewed very, very carefully.
Subic rape case victim recants story; issue may be dismissed
THE SUBIC rape case that involved a convicted United States Marine has taken a bizarre twist: the Filipina victim has recanted her story.
In a five-page sworn statement filed with the Court of Appeals (CA) and signed by her on March 12, the victim, only identified as "Nicole" since the crime committed by Lance Corporal Daniel Smith happened when she was still a minor, said: "I expect my sectors to question my motives in executing this statement more than three years after the incident.
"However, as I practically grew up interacting with American servicemen in Zamboanga City who treated me and my family very well, and thinking over and over again how I may have conducted myself at the Neptune Club, I can’t help but entertain doubts on whether the sequence of events in Subic last November of 2005 really occurred the way the court found them to have happened."
In a text message, Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez yesterday said Mr. Smith’s lawyer "can ask the Court of Appeals to declare a mistrial and the fiscal can move for a dismissal of the case on the grounds that evidence is not strong."
He added, however, that he has yet to see the recantation to make a conclusive comment.
Officials from the US embassy could not be reached for comment.
A lawyer actively pursuing Nicole’s case said the recantation was unexpected.
In a phone interview, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers secretary general Neri Colmenares said, however this will not, in any way, change the findings of the court when it had first convicted Mr. Smith."Rape is a public offense. It can be prosecuted without the complainant. It’s already on appeal. The CA has to decide on the basis of the evidence," he said.
While it could be considered a setback, he also questioned the timing of the recantation. "It’s questionable. Why so sudden?"
Nicole had earlier told the court that Mr. Smith "kissed my lips and neck and held my breast inside the van."
But she said this may be unsupported if witnesses had seen her unconscious when she was first brought inside the van.
"My conscience continues to bother me realizing that I may have in fact been so friendly and intimate with Daniel Smith at the Neptune Club that he was led to believe that I was amenable to having sex or that we simply just got carried away. I would rather risk public outrage than do nothing to help in ensuring that justice is served," Nicole added.
Meanwhile, Nicole has supposedly left for the US.
Mr. Colmenares yesterday told reporters he has received information from no less than the victim’s family that she has left for the US.
As this developed, Mr. Smith’s counsels has informed the appeals court that the US Marine has paid the family of Nicole P100,000 for compensatory and moral damages.
The amount represents the civil indemnity aspect of his conviction earlier at the trial court.
Nicole has also dropped her counsel. The same information told the court that "consonant with the satisfaction of the civil aspect of the case, private complainant [Nicole] [has] terminated the services of Atty. Evalyn G. Ursua as her counsel in the case and all other cases arising from or related to the case."
The Makati Regional Trial Court on Dec. 4, 2006 found Mr. Smith, who came to the Philippines under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), guilty of raping Nicole.
The court sentenced him to lifetime imprisonment (40 years) and ordered his temporary detention at the Makati City jail. The case is now being reviewed at the appellate court.
The issue has been revived after the Supreme Court decided that Mr. Smith should not be detained at the US embassy pursuant to the VFA, and should immediately be transferred to a local facility. Mr. Smith has been transferred from the city jail to the US embassy based on the so-called Romulo-Kenney Agreements, which was declared unconstitutional by the high court. — Ira P. Pedrasa