Thursday, March 19, 2009


The other day, Umagang Kay Ganda's Anthony Tabernas made an interesting analogy about Suzette Nicolas's, "aka" Nicole, action in accusing US marine lance corporal Daniel Smith of rape. He compared her to Helen of Troy who, by leaving her husband King Menelaus and following Paris, ignited a war between the Trojans and Acheans in what came to be known in Greek mythology as the Trojan War.

In certain ways, Nicole became a sort of Helen of Troy by becoming the center of a controversy that almost strained the relationship between the Philippines and the United States. If you will recall, Nicole accused Smith of raping her while the latter was participating in joint military exercises between Philippine and US troops pursuant to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries.

To make a long story short Smith was eventually found guilty. This is where all the controversy started. While Smith was detained in a city jail awaiting the result of his appeal, he was whisked away to the US embassy in Manila by virtue of an agreement between Philippine and US authorities, known as the Romulo-Kenney Agreement, purportedly in compliance with the provisions of the VFA. This created a huge uproar, not only from Nicole's side, but from political leaders and groups who saw this as a denigration of Philippine sovereignty.

Groups opposed to the VFA saw this as an opportune moment to revive calls for the scrapping of the agreement and promptly filed a case with the Supreme Court by questioning anew the constitutionality of the VFA. Although the High Court's decision fell short of petitioners' expectation with the affirmation of the validity of the agreement, it was nevertheless ruled that the Romulo-Kenney Agreement was not in accord with the terms of the VFA and directed - or should I say advised - the US and Philippine governments to agree on the detention of Smith by Philippine authorities. No one knows what happened to this supposed agreement, as Smith continues to remain on the premises of the US embassy in Manila.

Imagine the controversy and division sparked by this case of Nicole. It almost strained the relationship between the Philippines and the US with the threat of abrogation of the VFA, and angered a lot of us with the kowtowing of our leaders to US wishes. Many have fought to help Nicole secure the justice she sought. And all of these went for naught with the sudden and unexpectated recantation of Nicole's testimony that she was raped by the American marine.

Indeed, Nicole trifled with the courts and made a mockery of the legal system, and betrayed the efforts of those who fought for her with this questionable turn-around. She had effectively perjured herself by swearing to testimonies bearing conflicting versions. And most reprehensible, she lied to the Filipino people, not to mention the deprivation of Smith's liberty - if indeed she was not raped.


  1. Hi Jun!
    what's your take on RA 8505 and the parity of privacy rights between "the offended party" and "the accused" in a rape case?

  2. Hi Dean,

    How are you doing? Hope everything's well.

    RA 8505 is intended to shield rape victims and those accused of committing rape from undue publicity during the course of the trial and prosecution of a rape case. This is because the crime of rape - whether from the victim's or suspect's point of view - usually involves sordid and sensitive details that might unduly prejudice either the complainant or the accused, especially so in our culture where a woman's chastity is highly valued.

    But in so far as Nicole's case is concerned, the confidentiality of her identity no longer applies given the high publicity accorded her case. Her case is no longer a private matter with the initiation by herself, with assistance from her lawyer of course, of a petition before the Supreme Court in Nicolas v. Romulo, et al., questioning the validity of the VFA - a matter of public concern.

    Also, notice the wording of the section 5 of RA 8505 that may be seen as a loophole in according confidentiality. It says that parties involved shall recognize the victim and defendant's rights to privacy during the investigation, prosecution and trial of the case. It means if the case is no longer on trial, as when it is already at the appellate level or when it already terminated, the right to privacy may no longer be protected. Is the victim, or the accused, no less entitled to privacy just because the case is no longer on trial? I think not.

  3. Let me correct the typographical error I made in the last sentence of my comment with the following:

    "Is the victim, or the accused, less entitled to privacy just because the case is no longer on trial? I think not."