Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Monday, September 25, 2006

Law groups back Nicole in fight vs Americans

EIGHTEEN law groups within an umbrella organization yesterday promised to campaign for a Filipina who accuses four US marines of raping her in Subic last year.

“Nicole’s fight is not just for her own right and dignity but for all women who continuously suffer from lack of access to justice,” Glenda Litong, national coordinator of Alternative Law Groups Inc., said in a statement.

“It is also a fight for national sovereignty against those who trample on the country’s principles of justice, freedom and independence,” she said.

On her 23rd birthday on Friday, Nicole said she still hoped that her team of state prosecutors would be replaced, claiming they had tried to stop her from pursuing her case.

The same day, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez ordered the state prosecutors to include Nicole’s private lawyer, Evalyn Ursua, on the team.

Earlier, Gonzalez ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to look into Nicole’s claim that the state prosecutors had urged her to settle the case out of court.

“Good, we want to have an honest investigation on the matter, it’s our criminal justice at stake here,” Litong said.

But she said her group “deplores the government’s spineless posture to a case which in the very beginning should have displayed that the country’s justice system is firm enough to stand and defend the interest of the state and its citizens.”

Litong said her group planned to question a provision in the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States, which provides that the accused US marines could be sent home if their trial was not finished in one year.

“It’s part of a bigger strategy [to get justice for Nicole or other similar victims] with respect to the [agreement] itself,” Litong said.

“We’ll involve other legal organizations to look into the legality of the [agreement].”

Litong said her group had been supporting Nicole all along including Ursua, a member of the Women’s Legal Bureau that is under her group.

“We believe in the capacity of Attorney Ursua to represent Nicole. We provide legal strategies and backup work, but it’s her call,” she said.

Nicole, her mother and Ursua have been snubbing the court hearings on the case, claiming the prosecution panel has not been doing enough prosecution work.

Nicole claims that Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith raped her on a moving van in Subic on the night of Nov. 1 while three other marines—Lance Cpls. Dominic Duplantis and Keith Silkwood and Staff Sgt. Chad Carpentier—cheered him on.

She said she had been drinking with Smith inside a bar before Smith allegedly carried her outside to the waiting van accompanied by his fellow marines. Roy Pelovello - Manila Standard Today


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