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On December 4, 2006, Lance Corporal Daniel Smith of the US Marines was convicted of raping a 23 year-old Filipina, known as "Nicole", in the back of a van in Subic, Philippines while three other Marines cheered him on.  The conviction carries a forty-year prison sentence for Smith, but the sentence of the victim, "Nicole", since the start of her ordeal is worse, and tragically reflects the tradition of Philippines- US relations on these types of issues.  

The conviction of Lance Corporal Smith by A Philippine Court, was a landmark decision for this type of crime; US Military personnel versus Filipino citizens.  In the era of Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Force Base meaningful punishment for US personnel was rarely applied for crimes committed.  The process of dealing with those of the US Military who committed crimes on Philippine soil was for the accused to be turned over to US Base authorities by the Philippine police ... end of story.  The accused would never face charges in Philippine courts and would face, as their punishment, rotation out of the Philippines, case closed.  From a Philippine perspective, whose courts have archived thousands of unresolved cases associated with this process, this became unacceptable once the Marco’s regime fell in 1986 and Aquino, with Raul Manglapus as her Foreign Affairs Minister, came to power.  

Manglapus, viewed the thousands of unresolved cases, including rape, assault, manslaughter, murder, robbery, destruction of property, as a major issue to be addressed when it came time to renegotiate the expiring 1947 Military Bases Agreement in 1990 – 1991.  Manglapus wanted the Philippines to have jurisdiction over US Military personnel who committed criminal acts on Philippine territory, from an American perspective this was non-negotiable. The issue of Philippine jurisdiction, as well as reclassification of US Aid for the Bases as rent resulted in an impasse that was broken by the providential eruption of Mount Pinatubo on June 12, 1991, which damaged both Clark and Subic Bases considerably, hastening their closing, and putting an end to the official use of the Philippines for American bases.

The victim at the heart of this issue, "Nicole" was not some innocent farm girl lacking previous exposure to Americans.  She had a boyfriend in the Marine Corp stationed in Japan, and she had traveled from her home, Zamboanga, in the southern Philippines with her half-sister, to Subic at the invitation of another Marine, a friend, who paid for her lodging at a hotel.  On November 1, 2005, "Nicole" had been partying with the Marines at a club and got drunk.  "Nicole" left the club with Smith, allegedly carrying her to the van where the rape took place.  "Nicole" was dumped, half naked, by the side of the road after the rape.  Lance Corporal Smith claimed it was ‘consensual sex’ that occurred, a medical examination indicated otherwise.

When "Nicole" pressed charges she became the focus of ridicule. On the floor of the Philippine Senate, a male Senator who was attempting to discredit her claim accused her of being a prostitute.  This attack the victim policy has been commonplace for decades in the areas surrounding the US bases, where if a Filipina claimed an American Service man raped her she needed to prove to the authorities she wasn’t a prostitute. This test alone would prevent many women from reporting rape, for the Philippines is a nation where a sense of shame is a powerful part of the culture.

The history of the relationship between the American Serviceman and the Filipina has its roots in the Spanish American war, when US forces landed in the Philippines to fight the Spanish and then the Insurgents of Aguinaldo.  Professional soldiers were few in that era and the ranks of soldiers were filled with volunteers, more suited for Indian Wars, and National guardsmen of various degrees of training and discipline.  When the stay in the tropics became prolonged and the soldiers started to become insubordinate, the War Department, in 1899, allowed the creation of a Military Brothel in Manila, to give the troops an outlet in controlled environs. This was the beginning of a military tradition that exists to this day.  The towns adjacent to Clark Air Base, Angeles City, and Subic Bay Naval Base, Olongapo, were developed as R&R destinations for US troops, and served that function from the end of WWII until the closing of the bases in 1992.  Although prostitution is illegal in the Philippines, at its peak, Olongapo sported over 300 bars that employed 16,000 registered and another estimated 10,000 unregistered "hospitality girls".  That some girls were "registered" was an example of complicity in the prostitution industry of US Military Base Commanders and the corrupt Filipino governments of Olongapo and Angeles,  "Registered" bargirls were given weekly checkups for VD and other communicable diseases, and in the 1980’s the girls were required to have AIDS tests twice a month.  Girls that were given a clean bill of health had a little card with their picture and date of latest checkup they could pin to their bikini or costume, and show potential customers if they asked.  US Military personnel weren’t required to carry similar cards to verify their health status, as if you didn’t guess that already. Clubs that employed unregistered girls were branded  "off limits" to servicemen, one wonders if as accurate auditing of ordinance within the bases occurred as the tracking of Bargirls health cards outside the perimeter fence.  In a complete act of collusion, the US Military supported clinics that provided health services to Bargirls, including penicillin shots, pregnancy tests and abortions.

To be sure, Lance Corporal Smith during his time as a Marine was aware of the types of relationship servicemen and Filipinas could have.  Had he gone to Magsaysay Avenue he probably could have found a willing girl with whom to party, and avoided a 40 year prison sentence for rape and "Nicole" could have avoided a lifetime of ridicule, especially since the Philippine Press in all of it’s wisdom decided to release her real name, which I won’t do here.

For those who are concerned for the well being of Corporal Smith, fear not, for he does have a silent benefactor watching his back through all of this, the United States Government.  When he was convicted, Smith was to be remanded to the Philippine Police for incarceration, as he awaited the appeals process, this however, did not sit well with the US Government who wanted Smith turned over to US Embassy custody while he exhausts his appeals.  In the dead of night, Dec 29, 2006 the Foreign Affairs Minster of the Philippines, Romulo and US Ambassador, Kenney cut a deal and, over the objections of "Nicole’s" legal staff, Smith was turned over to the US Embassy.  If history is a guide to this sort of thing, Smith will be back in the US soon and won’t ever serve his sentence.  In order to leverage the release of a convicted rapist, the Philippines were warned by the US Embassy that US mercy medical and relief missions to typhoon victims might suffer should the Philippines fail to cooperate in Smith’s release.  In addition, a threat was extended to cancel the joint Balikatan military exercises, which would have been a financial hardship on the Philippines.  Since the joint exercises focus were to improve cooperation and coordination between the Philippines and the US in fighting the War on Terror, its remarkable that the Bush Administration would be willing to terminate the exercise to secure the release of, again, a convicted rapist.

So why has the rape of "Nicole" and conviction of Lance Corporal Smith for the crime worthy of US strong-arm tactics against the Philippines? One reason is that the US needs the Philippines to remember it place, and do what is expected of it.  The Philippines drew the ire of the Bush administration by being one of the first members of the "Coalition of the Willing" to withdraw its forces in order to secure the release of a kidnapped Filipino contractor. Seems Filipinos don’t like seeing their countrymen beheaded.  The US preferred the day when it would say, "Jump!" and the Philippines would say "How High?" The breaking with the coalition followed by a desire to see justice for their own citizens when foreigners abuse them is a slippery slope towards self-determination for the Philippines the US can’t tolerate. The US wants to remind the women of the Philippines that if a member of the US Military is raping you learn to enjoy it.  The US also wants to send a message to American troops that we are there for you and will support you, even if you are guilty of a crime, just don’t ask for medical care when you are wounded.

I hope "Nicole" can weather this ordeal and somehow resume a normal life.  I hope when Lance Corporal Smith beats his wrap and returns to the US he is put on a registry for sexual predators so at least the daughters of his neighbors are safe, and I wish the American people would open their eyes and try to understand why increasing numbers of the World’s population hate them.

Originally posted to FogBelter on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 08:57 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The real crime is the lack of justice (0+ / 0-)

    if this criminal is given sanctuary and allowed to return and escape incareceration for his crime. However, the crime of this individual, and those that may have aided and abetted same should not be construed as a blanket indictment of all people serving the armed forces.

    The indictment of a system that callously requires a nation to bend to it's will and provide "hospitality girls" for it's soldiers, that is the real crime that underpins serious problems.

    But yet, the US is not the only nation to do this. Similar charges have been made against other supposedly civilized organizations. It seems as if it's part of the territory, to have power over others and abuse people by sheer power of that authority is an ugly thing .. but it is not unique to America.

    I only take issue with the frame you use:

    "The US wants to remind the women of the Philippines that if a member of the US Military is raping you learn to enjoy it. The US also wants to send a message to American troops that we are there for you and will support you, even if you are guilty of a crime, just don’t ask for medical care when you are wounded."

    Americans should know better, and must do better to stop this.

    But that doesn't not mean that people I personally know, that serve in the military would ever condone such actions. Perhaps replacing the words "US" with "Bush administration" would make that more palatable to read: but even there, many people in the military who may agree to follow orders of the Bush administration would not agree to allow these types of actions to happen without challenge.

    Other than that, the diary is a step towards helping reveal the truth, and taking a step towards making the world a better place.

    Thanks for that.

    Time to let President Gore know you care. Sign up.

    by shpilk on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 09:22:17 PM PST

    •  I appreciate your feedback (0+ / 0-)

      The rage I feel towards this issue comes from the fact that every Presidential Administrations back to McKinley and American Military leadership in the Philippines throughout that same period bear responsibility for the conduct of our Military personnel in the Philippines.  Our servicemen participated in this outrage because they were allowed to by US Military authorities.  When the US left the Philippines thousands of "souvenir babies", the byproduct of relationships between Filipinas and American Servicemen were left behind.  This was a tradition of the Angeles City, Olongapo R&R center dynamic as well.  Many of these children were adopted by local Filipino families, who even though they were poor themselves, found a way to accept them into their families and raise them. The US Government never showed any honor in that area either.  I would like to pin the blame on Bush, but he can only be blamed for US actions in this particular instance, not the entire legacy.  And as for current soldiers, they have rare access to the Philippines due to the closing of the bases, but in the era before 1992 when the bases finally closed, millions of US Military personnel passed through the bases of the Philippines and participated in the bar culture there.  The participation is of course based on the individual, and though recreational sex is a great thing, the humiliation of the downtrodden isn't.  Each participant owns his conscience, enough said. Thank you again for your comment.

    •  They don't "require hospitality girls" (0+ / 0-)

      It is unfortunate but where you find young men you will find places where women are objectified. Heck, here in the states there are strategically placed strip clubs conveniently located to seperate the young sailor from his money. It is unfortunate but in the Phillipins part of the problem is that poverty leads to desperation and many of the young girls I met didn't have the education and sorely needed the money they got from being a bargirl. That isn't saying that I don't sympathize(because I did) but I really think that blaming the military is not completely understanding the hows and whys of prostitution and what would compel a woman to place her body at the mercy of a man.

  •  Crap. (0+ / 0-)

    He's still in custody.
    He's still in the Philippines.
    He's still an American citizen deserving embassy attention.
    And this statement is calumny.

    The US wants to remind the women of the Philippines that if a member of the US Military is raping you learn to enjoy it.  The US also wants to send a message to American troops that we are there for you and will support you, even if you are guilty of a crime, just don’t ask for medical care when you are wounded.

    •  I'll Bite (0+ / 0-)

      He is a convicted criminal who through a diplomatic power play on the part of the US Government was extracted from the Philippine justice system.  This is an old game, odds are a deal will be made to have him serve his time in a US Military detention facility "for his own protection".  After a couple of years when all of this blows over, he will be dishonorably discharged and released. Calumny? Come on. The message sent loud and clear to the people of the Philippines through this highly publicized case is simply this:  If you have been raped by a member of the US Military, and you go to press charges, if you stand up for your rights under the laws on the books to protect you, look to be dragged through every humiliation and accusation, abandoned by your own countries judicial system, have your name leaked through the press so you family has to endure ridicule on your behalf. And when your assailant is found guilty in a Philippine court of law, when forensic evidence implicates him and supports your claim of assault and all it takes is a call from the US Embassy, and a little pressure on the Foreign Minister, to rob you of the court's decision.  That sends a message that "Nicole" should have just taken the rape in stride and avoided all the legal effort for a court decision in her favor that amounts to nothing.  Smith may actually be returned to Philippine authorities for incarceration if he exhausts his appeals, but that would be a tremendous surprise, for this is the Philippines not Japan, where a similar crime committed gets you hard time no questions asked. You call my statement calumny, I call it the bitter truth. We will have to disagree.  Thank you for your comment.

      •  asdf (0+ / 0-)
        1. Under SOF, he's in US custody until appeals are exhausted, which they haven't been. No one's been "robbed of the court's decision".
        1. He hasn't been "extracted from the Philippine justice system", he's been temporarily extracted from the detention system. See #1.
        1. Your beef with the plight of rape victims in the Philippines is probably valid (and certainly not unique internationally), but it's hardly the US government's fault. That the rapist is in the US military is noteworthy, but not dispositive as to the embassy's actions. In the event, one hopes they'd do the same for you or me.  
  •  I'm not certain how accurate you are (0+ / 0-)

    I do know that if you were accused of a crime back in 1987 in Subic (I was stationed there in 87 and 88) that you would not be rotated back to the states but that you would be placed on "legal hold".(I myself never behaved in a manner that would get me placed on it but every member rotated there is counselled about it during a mandatory indoctrination)

    Additionally, military members get tested for AIDS annually they also make certain that servicemembers are counselled about STDs prior to heading into ports and are encouraged to use condoms(pretty graphic films). While I am not a huge fan of prostitution I think that it was intelligent for the military to try and ensure that its resources were protected from disease.

  •  You've got key facts wrong, and gross bias (0+ / 0-)

    But first let me say that sexual exploitation around military bases (not just U. S. military, but those worldwide), is undeniable. Military personnel have money and a willingness to spend it blowing off steam, so economics take hold from there.

    But this statement is flat-out trollish:

    The US wants to remind the women of the Philippines that if a member of the US Military is raping you learn to enjoy it.

    Rape is a very serious matter, and the overwhelming majority of our service members would risk their lives to stop a rape from happening. Your anti-military bias has led you to make irrational and unwarranted charges that undermine the credibility of your diary.

    For example you appear to be completely ignorant of SOFA, the "Status Of Forces Agreement". This agreement  is designed to prevent host-nations from "legally" kidnapping members of the military to exert political influence. It also keeps corrupt local cops from targeting our military personnel for extortion by throwing false charges at them, (as happens to American tourists in Tijuana, Mexico on a daily basis.)

    So this claim

    The process of dealing with those of the US Military who committed crimes on Philippine soil was for the accused to be turned over to US Base authorities by the Philippine police ... end of story.

    is patently false. The service member would typically be charged under the UCMJ. And as your own diary reveals, there were senior politicians within the Philippine government who actively encouraged the U. S. military to simply make problems go away.

    Just because charges weren't brought under local courts (where the very concept of a "fair trial" by American standards is virtually impossible in many parts of the world), does not mean charges were not brought.

    So while I respect your ideals and the promotion of both justice and womens rights, your uninformed hit-job approach kills your credibility. This subject deserves better than you've given it here. So does our military.

    •  Thank you for your response (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Without appearing defensive, I must say I actually don't have anything against the US Military in general.  It has a job to do and it has done it well for the duration of our nation's History.  My paternal line includes soldiers all the way back to the Revolutionary War.  As my great-great grandfather fought with the Union's 120th Illinois Infantry at the Siege of Vicksburg, his cousin died in Vicksburg's defense as a Texas Volunteer. There are no American's I hold in higher esteem than the Battling Bastards of Bataan, so let us please move beyond my anti-military bias. It's a good rhetorical ploy but not factual in my case. That being said, though I don't have a bias against the Military I also don't believe individuals become more than human when they take the oath and put on the uniform.  Therefore, the US Military includes individuals with traits, both good and bad, as is the case with American citizens in general.

      I would agree most Military personnel would come to the aid of a person being assaulted, as any moral person would do. In this case, the court records state, that three other Marines in the van were cheering as the assault was taking place.  None of these Marines seemed to find the noble urge to come to her aid, and none it seems, had any problem dumping "Nicole" with her pants around her ankles by the side of the road when the assault concluded.  Though these men don't represent all member of the US Military, to be sure, I think we can both agree they were in the service of the United States of America, when they perpetrated the crime.

      I will not give a pass to a criminal on the grounds that he is wearing the uniform of the US Military, furthermore, when our troops are abroad they represent the United States of America just as any ambassador would, and their behavior reflects on our nation. I didn't say in the quote you pointed out above, which seems to have become a favorite of respondents, that "The US Government wants to remind the women of the Philippines that members of the US Military intend on raping you."  What I was getting at is that the US Government is saying to the Philippines if you put yourself through hell to get justice, as "Nicole" did, and you're assailant is found guilty of the crime against you, as was the case of Lance Corporal Smith, the United States doesn't value the finding of the court and will apply diplomatic pressure to make an exception for the convicted on the grounds that he is an American.

      I don't believe SOFA, applies here because the accused wasn't picked up by corrupt Filipino Policemen as he was eating an ice cream cone, his semen was found in a woman claiming rape.  If the intention of SOFA is to provide cover for lawbreakers it is a pathetic construct.  I agree our forces should be protected from legal abuse by corrupt host governments, but SOFA shouldn't be used as a "get out of jail free card" for miscreants who happen to be wearing our uniform.

      As for the quality of the courts in the Philippines I need to point out a couple of things. First, there were initially four Marines charged for the crime and three were released on the evidence.  I doubt the servicemen would have been released if there was some sort of political blackmail going on. Secondly, the United States created the foundation of the Philippine Judicial system during the Colonial period, which means, the Philippine legal is probably just as flawed as the American legal system.

      My instinct is that the US Military knew they had a problem in this case when they turned the accused Marines over to the Embassy.  It is true there are corrupt officials in the Philippines, it is a tradition, but then so is the concept of Honor in the Marine Corp.  The US Military, I'm sure, has seen the evidence in this case and knows whether Smith is guilty or not.  If there is a determination internal to the Military that he probably raped the girl, they should show Honor and turn him over to the Philippine Government and let justice be done.  I also have a sense, that if Smith was thought to be innocent his case would have been story one and Fox and CNN months ago.

      I'm really not here to blast the Military, but I don't think it serves the reputation of the United States to defend a convicted criminal, which Smith is.  And I don't think it is beneath the United States to say to the Philippines, "It seems Smith committed a crime, we regret the harm to the victim,we expect the Philippine penal system to treat him humanely, and we hope to learn from this incident so we may strengthen the bond between our countries."  Instead we say "Release Smith to our custody or your humanitarian aide could be impacted."

      Where's the honor in that?  Again thank you for your response.

      •  There are two different issues at play here (0+ / 0-)

        Smith's guilt or innocence is of secondary concern to American officials at this point, because it impacts only the people involved in this case. (It is of profound importance to them, but that's not the main issue from a U.S. policy standpoint.)

        The primary issue for the U.S. is that American personnel serving overseas (military, diplomat, whatever else), be subject to SOFA - meaning that crimes will be prosecuted under the U.S. legal system rather than the local system. This is a global policy, and as you state in the diary, if a host nation doesn't agree to that up front, the US won't put a base there, (which is typically a financial windfall for the host country).

        It makes no difference to the US government whether the local courts were fantastic or corrupt, nor whther Smith is guilty or innocent, they want US personnel tried under the US legal system to ensure one standard of justice worldwide.

        If you think it's tough to meet military recruiting goals now, can you imagine how hard it would be if American military personnel were subject to the local courts? Women serving in Afghanistan could be tried for not wearing a burkha(sp?) while in uniform. They could be sentenced to be "honor raped" for insulting the honor of a tribal leader. How outrageous would you find that?

        Oh, in that case you would probably find the principles of a SOFA agreement quite desirable. Well, so does the US Gov't. And the gov't problem in the Smith case isn't that's he was charged with a crime, but that he wasn't subjected to the American justice system. The gov't cannot be seen to be making an exception here, they have to hold a consistent policy worldwide.

        THAT is the issue. And you, me and the U.S. gov't would all be happy if Smith (assuming he's actually guilty), were tried and convicted and imprisioned by US judges and lawyers in US courts and prisons. That would be justice for all except, perhaps, Nicole.

        But your diary approaches the issue as though if Smith isn't subjected to Philippine justice he won't face any justice. That isn't the case.

        Thanks for your response. If your diary had been as well presented I probably wouldn't have accused you of blatant bias.

        And full disclosure: I was a Marine officer, did four tours overseas, and was in the Philippines for the closing of Clark and NAS Cubi Point. I saw the overt prostitution in the bars too. I was sickened by the fact that some of the girls there appeared barely pubescent. One I spoke to told me she came from a poor farm family and her mother had sold her to the bar owner because their crops had failed after Pinatubo.

        Fucking heartbreaking!

        The sickest part might be that the question of whether they are better off now (w/o the base-generated dollars flowing into their economy), isn't easily answered. What options do the poorest families have now? And I'm not talking about bar girls, I mean the street vendors, t-shirt makers, artisans etc., whose entire livelihoods depended on the bases. I spent a lot of money in the P.I., but like a lot of my fellow Marines not one cent of it was on prostitution.

        The meaning of life is LOVE (-5.13, -5.95) ENTP

        by B12love on Tue Mar 06, 2007 at 12:20:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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