That stake in their hearts

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The Inquirer’s Ramon Tulfo doesn’t even think there was a rape.

How could there have been one, he asks, when the– in Tulfo’s universe, still alleged– rapist was seen “dirty dancing” with the (equally alleged) “rape victim,” and what’s more took the time to put on a condom?

The “victim” (Tulfo’s double quotes) was also wearing the tightest of jeans, which the “rapist” couldn’t have removed without the help of the wearer. And here’s the clincher: it’s tough enough “doing it” in a parked van, continues Tulfo. So it must have been even tougher in a moving one. There was no rape, despite a court ruling to the contrary. What there was was humiliation, the (alleged) “victim” having been dumped “like a pig” after sex, which Tulfo’s piece would now say was totally consensual.

The subject of Tulfo’s revisionist contempt was “Nicole,” the Filipina a Lance Corporal Daniel Smith of the US Marines, said a Philippine court, raped in a van at the Subic Free Port in 2005 while three exalted examples of US manhood, also Marines, cheered him on.

Smith is being kept in the US Embassy in Manila, presumably in the manner to which he’s accustomed. But he’s also in the center of a debate that in another country would probably not be happening.

If this weren’t the Philippines, Smith would be in the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa by now, the Supreme Court having ruled that being a convicted rapist, he should be in Philippine custody. By the same token, if Smith were a Filipino in the US he’d be lining up with a tray for the slop served in one of those prisons the US has built so many of, rather than fattening up on embassy food.

But this is the Philippines. And as Senator Joker Arroyo was saying early this week, this is where a Supreme Court order has to wait in line while the executive branch debates with itself where Smith will be detained, the Department of Foreign Affairs explains to us what the US view is while the US ambassador keeps a demure silence, senators like Juan Ponce Enrile tell us that the country will lose more rather than gain anything if it terminates the Visiting Forces Agreement, and the columnists throw in their exact two cents’ worth.

Having been a police reporter for much of his adult life, Tulfo probably knows best about dirty dancing, condoms, tight jeans and moving vans. But his most recent defense of Smith—and incidentally of the Visiting Forces Agreement, under the terms of which Smith and company were “visiting” the Philippines and sampling the night life—does make one wonder, despite contrary evidence, if he gets out much.
Aren’t US soldiers taught safe sex, which means that Smith had to take the time to use a condom to protect himself? Does dancing with someone, no matter how “dirty” a woman makes it, imply willingness to have sex? If it does in those lusty moments of entwined limbs, can’t a woman change her mind later and shout “stop!”? As for removing tight jeans and sex in vans whether moving or parked, both have been done before, in testimony to the lengths to which men and women will go to answer the primal call.

Maybe Tulfo should indeed go out more—preferably in the company of Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, who declared that the Smith issue would not affect US-Philippine relations because these go back “hundreds of years”. That should be news to historians on both sides of the Pacific. Those relations earnestly began only a little more than a century ago when the US– in the words of that song every school child had to sing during the US colonial period– “trample(d) these sacred shores”.

Despite his freely borrowing from the foggy prose of Winston Churchill, Remonde was right on one point, however. Philippine-US relations were indeed “built (sic) on blood, sweat and tears”, but mostly on those of the Filipinos, who had to endure torture, massacres and the razing of their communities during the Philippine-American war, the non-recognition until last week of the role of Filipinos veterans in World War II, the post-war shooting of Filipinos in the peripheries of the former US military bases in Clark and Subic, and, oh yes, the rape of “Nicole” in 2005.

The US did use force in the conquest of these islands, and the Empire still uses force all over the planet to assure total dominance on land and sea and in the air. But it has kept the Philippines firmly under its control before and after 1946 by convincing the colonized that keeping the US happy isn’t simply the better policy choice– it’s the only choice.

The most successful colonial and imperial power in history, in the Philippines the US achieved something it has not since achieved again, by, among other means, teaching Filipinos not only the language and culture of their colonizers, and educating a rapacious political class in the ways of backroom politics and governance, to which the attachment of the prefix “self” was a brilliant stroke of irony.

What we’re witnessing today as the Smith drama unfolds is how well-spent the US investment in “soft power” has been. Tulfo and half a dozen other columnists in the Manila papers who’ve been bravely speaking in behalf of Smith and the US are right: few Filipinos would really care if a hundred or a thousand Nicoles were raped. Indeed a group of Filipinas in 2005 organized themselves to defend Smith—such a nice American boy—against Nicole, arguing that he couldn’t have done it, quite simply because of his US origins.

The US is the stake that’s kept this country in a coma for over a century. The anguish some feel before the Arroyo government’s inability and unwillingness to defend Philippine law and sovereignty grows from many Filipinos’ driving that stake even more deeply into their own hearts, assuring themselves that they will never rise again.

(BusinessWorld)

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