Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Saturday, May 20, 2006

35 witnesses poised vs Subic ‘rapists’

The lawyers in the prosecution in the so-called Subic rape case yesterday said it is preparing to present 35 witnesses that would corroborate the allegation of the alleged victim and pin down the American suspects on the charges of having raped a young Filipino woman inside the former US naval base in Olongapo City, Zambales province late last year.

During the preliminary conference at the sala of Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 139 Judge Benjamin Pozon, Evalyn Ursua, lead private prosecutor in the case, said the prosecution is set to present some 35 witnesses who are composed of doctors, forensic experts, police investigators, eye witnesses and “others who may have direct or indirect knowledge of the rape incident.”

Ursua also said the prosecution is prepared to present the alleged rape victim in court, if they felt there was a need for the court to hear her personal testimony of the alleged incident.

The lead prosecutor in the case moreover said her camp also intends to use the testimony of Timoteo Soriano, the driver of the van which the accused US Marines soldiers had hired and where the crime was allegedly committed the night of Nov. 1 last year.

Ursua said she thought it was necessary to present all the available witnesses in the case as her camp was well aware of the legal principle that the burden of proof on an any criminal allegation lies with the prosecution.

“It is just normal for the prosecution to have as much witnesses as possible to prove their (suspects’) guilt beyond reasonable doubt. We know for a fact that the defense’s job is relatively easier than the prosecution,” Ursua said.

But while the prosecution said it is presenting a battery of witnesses in the case, the defense camp said it was not.

Lawyer Jose Justiniano, the legal counsel of Lance Corporal Keith Silkwood, one of the accused in the case, said he and other defense lawyers are planning to present before the court merely the counter-affidavits of the four suspects.

Justiniano said with the prospect of having no one to corroborate the statements of the four US Marines, he was optimistic that they would get no less than an acquittal in the case.

He further said he is not a bit worried over the number of witnesses the prosecution was planning to present in the trial.

“This is not a contest on the number of witnesses you can present in court. This is about the importance of the evidence that you will present (before it),” the defense lawyer said.

Both the prosecution and the defense said they are awaiting Pozon’s issuance of his decision over the motion that was filed before the court seeking clarification as to the highly essential issue of when the case had officially started.

The clarification was being sought so that it would be determined to the parties involved in the case when the one-year deadline for such a local case involving American military personnel to be resolved, as stated under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Under the VFA, a pact which was forged by the Philippine government with the US government in 1998 when the US still maintained military bases in Subic and Clark in Pampanga province, the case must be tried and resolved within a year.

The prosecution maintained that the one-year period should start from the date the accused were arraigned.

If the court decides that the one-year period had started during the filing of information in the case, the court shall at present have only less than seven months to come out with a resolution over it.

The case stemmed from allegations made by a 22-year-old woman, who hails from Zamboanga in the South, that she was raped aboard a van by six American soldiers during a nightout in Subic Nov. 1 last year.

US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith is being charged with raping the woman while his companions that night, Silkwood and Lance Corporal Dominic Duplantis and Staff Sergeant Chad Carpentier were accused of being accessories to the crime since they allegedly watched and cheered Smith while he sexually abused the girl.

Two other American servicemen who were earlier included in the charge sheet were let off after they were cleared of any participation in the alleged rape.

The incident has sparked controversy as it revived the issue of the fairness of the VFA, which some local sectors have branded as too favorable toward the US and its military personnel in the country.

The case also initially caused a row between Manila and Washington over the rights to have custody over the American suspects.

The US government had turned down a formal request by the Philippine government and has insisted custody over the four US Marines, whom has been kept in detention at the US Embassy in Manila. Ben Gines Jr. - Daily Tribune


  • 35 witnesses vs Subic Rape? I thought a witness would have had to SEE something. No, these are accusers, they witnessed nothing. Why is the press so racist?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/21/2006 6:05 AM  

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