Smith’s lawyers

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If the Subic rape incident is demonstrating anything, it is how well both Philippine officialdom as well as much of Philippine society have internalized the self-hatred that’s at the core of the country’s experience as a US colony.

It’s more than evident in the spirited defense convicted rapist Daniel Smith of the US Marines is getting from two major departments of the executive branch–the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice.

These two departments have joined the US Embassy in singing the same song rather than allowing the latter to sing solo. The trio’s song is that Article 5, paragraph 6 of the Visiting Forces Agreement gives the United States custody over Smith until his appeal is decided.

That provision of the VFA provides that “custody over any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of the judicial proceedings.”

The US government–unlike the Philippine one–usually does its best to protect its nationals, especially US government personnel. This is after all among the duties of governments. To protect its interests, the US in the first place made sure that the VFA would be lopsidedly in its favor, and that too is to be expected of governments truly committed to the perceived interests of the countries they represent. In the aftermath of the conviction of one of its nationals and soldiers, the US is, naturally, doing its all to regain custody in observance not only of its basic duty to see to the welfare of its citizens, but also of the need to demonstrate what it means to be a world power.

The United States is after all the last remaining superpower as well as the richest country in the world, and thus capable of using not only its wealth and military power, but also military and economic aid as levers to get what it wants.

None of these means that the government of a less powerful, less wealthy country like the Philippines cannot defend its own interests. Venezuela can, Malaysia can. The Philippines too can, and it should, especially when whatever issues arise between it and the United States concerns the welfare and interest of its nationals.

The Philippines can and should, but usually doesn’t. A succession of Philippine governments since 1946–when the Philippines sabotaged its own legislative processes and passed the Parity Amendment to the 1936 Constitution–has meekly bowed to US demands. The Arroyo regime is no exception. It is exceptional only in its capacity to give the US what it wants even if it be at the expense of its own citizens.

Raul Gonzalez, officially a functionary of the Philippine government, has been demonstrating this capacity since 2005 when the Subic rape took place. His most recent achievement in this area is to assail the integrity of the judge who found Smith guilty of rape.

Judge Benjamin Pozon, said Gonzalez, was being “sympathetic to (rape victim) Nicole and the Leftist groups” when he ruled the other day that convicted rapist Lance Corporal Daniel Smith should remain in the Makati City Jail.

Judge Pozon has ruled that Article 5, paragraph 6 of the Visiting Forces Agreement no longer applies to the US Marine. Pozon said “the custody of accused Smith by the US military authorities was terminated after the completion of the trial and rendition of judgment of conviction.”

But he also ruled that if Smith were returned to US custody pending his appeal, the Philippines not having jurisdiction over US facilities, “Philippine courts would be deprived of their duty of supervision over the detention of the convicted accused under Philippine laws.”

“I think his agenda is to please the Left,” Gonzalez said of Pozon.

“Maybe he thinks that by (keeping Smith in Philippine custody), he would be praised and would get the kudos and hosannas of certain sectors.”

This is the kind of commitment to the defense of its nationals the DOJ has time and again demonstrated. Neither the DOJ nor Foreign Affairs has bothered to argue that “In extraordinary cases, the Philippine government shall present its position to the United States government regarding custody, which the United States government shall take into full account.” The wording of this VFA provision may be vague. But certainly a sovereign government with the interests of its citizens at heart could have presented a position better than its current one, so that the US can “take (it) into full account?”

But it’s not only the Philippine government that has reacted to the Subic rape like a brain-washed automaton. If such Arroyo minions as Gonzalez are lawyering for Smith together with Smith’s attorney of record, there are also the nameless millions out there in the archipelago of our sorrows who’re secretly or openly rooting for Smith and blaming “Nicole” not only for complaining that she had been raped, but also for not enjoying it.

One not so nameless group calls itself “Supporters of Daniel Smith.” It’s headed by a Filipina married to a US Navy man. While referring to Nicole as “the victim,” she nevertheless says that it’s her group and not Nicole and her supporters who speak for Filipino women. Her group has given Smith books as well as other forms of support, and is planning a vigil at the Makati City Jail to boost Smith’s morale. What’s more, it’s also raising money so Smith’s parents can visit him in jail.

This is the kind of thing that can really raise the hackles of women’s groups. But the bad news is that this group probably represents most Filipinas, by which I mean those who’re thinking in their heart of hearts that Smith couldn’t have done it, he’s such a pretty boy, and that they wouldn’t have minded being in the van with him that fateful night last November 1, 2005.

More than Gonzalez and the Department of Foreign Affairs, and more than Smith’s attorney of record, they’re lawyering for Smith most of all, while condemning “Nicole” in observance of the core hate-myself lesson of the Philippine colonial experience: that while Americans can do no wrong, Filipinos are never right.

(Business Mirror)

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