MANILA, Philippines?A number of groups and individuals Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to look into the recent sworn statement of a Filipino woman casting doubt on her earlier complaint that resulted in the December 2006 rape conviction of a US Marine.
Women?s rights advocates and members of the party-list group Gabriela and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) claimed that ?Nicole? did not recant, as the media had reported, and that there was no inconsistency between her sworn statement dated March 12, 2009, and submitted to the Court of Appeals by the lawyers of Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, and her testimony that led to the latter?s rape conviction.
They also asked the high court to look into a leaked draft decision, recently published in the Manila Times, reversing Smith?s conviction.
Justice Agustin Dizon?s draft decision has no bearing on the case as he has retired and it was not promulgated by his division.
Smith?s appeal has since been raffled off to the 12th Division of the Court of Appeals.
The petitioners asked the Supreme Court to stop the appellate court from resolving Smith?s appeal pending the result of the investigation they were seeking. They said Nicole?s sworn statement and the leaked draft decision could unduly influence both the appellate court and the public.
Among the petitioners are Leticia Ramos-Shahani, one of the authors of the Anti-Rape Law of 1997; women and children?s rights activists Sr. Mary John Mananzan, Teresita Ang-See, Ana Maria Nemenzo and Cristina Lim Yuson; and lawyers Harry Roque and Evalyn Ursua, Nicole?s former legal counsel.
The other petitioners are Norma Dollaga of the Ecumenical Women?s Forum and Esperanza Santos of the Task Force Subic Rape, a coalition of women?s groups ?that engage in various forms of advocacy to obtain justice for Nicole.?
But Nicole?s mother called on Ursua and like-minded groups and individuals to stop initiating action on the case.
The mother maintained that Nicole had issued the affidavit on her own volition and on the family?s ?initiative.?
The mother demanded to know why Ursua was ?asking for an investigation when we were the ones who approached [Smith?s lawyers] so we can get the [P100,000 court-awarded civil damages] intended for us.?
?What does she want to happen? I?m really angry. Why can?t she just accept that we don?t want her services anymore?? the mother said.
According to the mother, she had long been looking for a way to claim the civil damages awarded by the Makati court that found Smith guilty of rape.
?I suggested that,? she said, adding that she wanted the deal to be ?OK? and done with before she returned to Zamboanga.
But the mother gave no details on how she got through to Smith?s camp.
She said she had asked around and was not about to just forget the money: ?Nagtanong-tanong ako kung paano ... Sayang din ?yun.?
?I really wanted this to be over, to cut it off, to close the chapter,? the mother said when reached by phone Tuesday in her native Zamboanga City.
Earlier, she said Nicole had flown to the United States to put the past behind her and start a new life.
Part of the petition read: ?From the sequence and timing of events, it is not difficult to conclude that everything has been orchestrated so that in the end, Smith will get acquitted and the public will accept the acquittal.
?With the acquittal, the issue of Smith?s custody by the US Embassy, which has become legally untenable and a foreign relations nightmare to both the Philippine and US governments, will disappear.?
The petitioners said the media had sensationalized Nicole?s March 12 affidavit as a supposed recantation, leading the public to believe that she had already taken back her complaint of rape.
?While the supposed sworn statement of Nicole has been called a ?recant? by the media, in truth the same is not a recant,? the petitioners said.
?In fact, upon its examination by the lawyers who are petitioners in this case, they have ascertained that there is no inconsistency between the new statement and the testimonies of Nicole and other witnesses before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City,? they said.
The petitioners said the supposed recantation was a creation of the media.
?Despite the paucity of the media?s knowledge of the precise details of the testimonies of Nicole and other witnesses, editors and reporters concluded that Nicole recanted and she may have committed perjury,? petitioners said.
?The last one was especially trumpeted by no less than the secretary of justice,? they said, adding:
?As the media sensationalized Nicole?s alleged recant, the public easily concluded that no rape occurred because Nicole?s modern-day story of violation did not fit the public?s limited understanding of rape as a crime committed through brute force, in the Maggie de la Riva rape case prototype, or by a maniac pouncing on a hapless woman.?
The petitioners said the circumstances and timing of Nicole?s sworn statement were questionable. They pointed out that Nicole?s letter to Ursua terminating her legal services were submitted by Smith?s lawyer Jose Justiniano to the appellate court without any indication of being received.
They also raised ethical questions, saying the supposed recantation was also notarized by a member of the Sycip Salazar Hernandez and Gatmaitan law firm, to which Justiniano belongs.
Nicole?s sworn statement and letter to Ursua formed part of Justiniano?s submission to the Court of Appeals on March 17.
But the petitioners said the sworn statement had no legal weight ?[other] than to influence the outcome of the appeal.?
They also questioned the Manila Times? publication of retired Justice Dizon?s draft decision.
?There is no reason for the release of such a draft document other than to again influence public opinion,? they said.
The petitioners likewise said the Inquirer had violated the Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act of 1998.
?For the first time, Nicole?s face was published on the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer with the caption, ?The Unveiling, Unmaking of Nicole,? in gross violation of Section 5 of [Republic Act No. 8505),? they said.
According to a footnote in the petition, Section 5 states that ?the name or personal circumstance of the offended party ? shall not be disclosed to the public.?
But Nicole?s mother said Ursua et al. should not question the Sycip Salazar Hernandez and Gatmaitan law firm, in whose office Nicole signed the affidavit with her mother and brother as witnesses.
?It?s my fault. That?s not their fault. We wanted it; it was not Justiniano who approached us,? she said.