Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Subic rape complainant says it’s up to the judge now

By Jefferson Antiporda, Manila Times Reporter

THE integrity and fairness of the judge is our last hope.”

So said Evalyn Ursua, private prosecutor in the Subic rape case. She feared the government doesn’t seem to want the complainant to win the case. She based her misgivings on official acts taken and statements issued by the Department of Justice.

The lawyer accused Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez of “lawyering for the defense.” She cited as proof the DoJ resolution downgrading the charge against the three coaccused, S/Sgt. Chad Carpentier and L/Cpls. Dominic Duplantis and Keith Silkwood. She recalled that only upon insistent public demand did Gonzalez include the three in the charge sheet as coconspirators.

The 23-year-old woman from Zamboanga City, given the name Nicole by the court to hide her true identity, accused L/Cpl. Daniel Smith, a member of the US Marines, of raping her on a moving van at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority on the night of November 1 last year. She also said that his three companions cheered Smith on while he forced himself on her.

Most telling of all, according to the private prosecutor, Gonzalez originally claimed no rape had ever occurred and that Nicole and her mother, Susan Nicolas, were just imagining things.

“All this has been said in public,” Ursua noted. “The government is not serious. It wants to lose the case. That’s how we interpret it.”

Last week Senior State Prosecutor Emelie Fe de los Santos decided to forgo the presentation of rebuttal witnesses, claiming the prosecution had already presented enough evidence to secure a conviction.

For that reason, Judge Benjamin Pozon of Makati Regional Trial Court, who presides over the hearing, ordered both sides to file their respective memoranda, after which, he said, the case would be deemed submitted for resolution. He set November 27 as the tentative date when he will have handed down the verdict.

On Monday the justice department sacked State Prosecutor Hazel Valdez. The only member of the prosecution panel to disagree with the decision, Valdez had gone on public to excoriate her colleagues.

Gonzalez said that Valdez, by bringing out disagreement in the way the prosecution was being handled, had forfeited her place in the panel. In any case, he added, the government lawyer was no longer needed since the trial had already been concluded.

Ursua said the prosecution would have strengthened its case if it had recalled the two US Naval Criminal Investigation Service to the witness stand. The apparent objective was to belie Smith’s claim made on direct testimony that the agents, Antonio Ramos and Guy Papageorge, had misquoted him in their report.

“Our hands are tied,” Ursua said. “We wanted to present rebuttal witnesses. Now, we just hope the judge would convict the accused.”

Ursua said Nicole and her mother were enraged by the decision not to pursue the rebuttal phase. The two, she added, were also disappointed over the removal of Valdez from the case.

She said the mother and daughter now doubt their chances of winning the case.


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