POSTSCRIPT / November 8, 2005 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Here's how the Subic rape novella will end

DON’T BLAME VFA: Even assuming that the Zamboanguena visiting Subic last Nov. 1 was raped by one or several US servicemen, that case is not enough reason to abrogate the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement, as some grandstanding politicians demand.

That kind of thinking (or unthinking) evokes classic images of somebody burning his house to get rid of a mouse hiding in it.

The agreement was signed in 1998 and ratified after much debate and study on both sides. It is not entirely useless or lopsided. It can be shown that both the Philippines and the United States benefit from it.

The off-duty American GIs were not carrying out a provision of the VFA when they took the 22-year-old woman that evening and abused her, assuming they did. In short, the VFA was not the main reason for the alleged rape.

Now if the VFA indeed needs reviewing, by all means let us review it. If it is found to be not to our national interest, let us rewrite or rescind it — but not because of the alleged rape.

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BORING RERUN: Pardon my skepticism, but it seems to me (yawn) I have seen this rape movie before.

And this is how the movie will end — The servicemen will be acquitted. Or if somebody has to be sacrificed at the altar of RP-US relations, it will be just one of the five accused. And this one convict will serve an abbreviated sentence in a US military jail, not in our stinking prisons.

As sequel: There will be talk that some amount was paid as settlement to the victim, but this will be denied to the very end. The victim will plead with everybody to leave her alone.

And, finally, ennui will set in within the one-year deadline for completing litigation. The Filipino’s notoriously short span of attention will gloss over the entire episode, until the next GI rape resurrects exactly the same issues and the same scenario.

(If I were the scriptwriter, I would end the story with a contrite GI journeying, while on bail, to Zamboanga to ask for the woman’s hand in marriage. She and her family will be overwhelmed by this act. And, siempre, the couple will live happily ever after in the land of milk and honey, di vah?)

* * *

THE CONDOM!: But meantime, we have to endure the turgid reporting, the stony silence of the US embassy and the unimaginative statements of presidential spokesmen, politicians, women’s groups and the rest of the chorus in the bleachers.

At least the rape case is providing material for anti-US elements and politicians hungry for mention in media. And we in media are obliging: the paper has to come out and the show must go on.

Though predictable, the storyline will not be entirely boring. Media and kibitzing politicians will make sure the usual intriguing ingredients will be sprinkled all over.

The nation will be held in suspense as the driver of the servicemen’s van teeters between affirming and recanting his earlier sworn statement wherein he described the assault. He will be threatened with perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

If nobody thinks of preserving it, the van will be vacuumed clean and all physical evidence on board will disappear. Somebody will cry foul, but who can blame the tour operator if he wants to keep his vehicles spic and span?

And then, by gad!, the condom that caught the all-important semen proving the crime of passion and identifying the rapist will be reported missing! Or if it is not missing, it will turn out later in the trial to have been replaced!

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THE SCRIPTS: I do not know who is writing the defense script for the US embassy, but whoever he is I am hereby giving permission for him to borrow some of these stray thoughts that may prove useful to preserving cordial RP-US relations.

On the Philippine side, the garrulous politicians, the usual anti-American elements, the women’s groups and other advocates of this and that will never run out of things to say.

But as far as the government — meaning Malacanang and its runners — is concerned, I dare say that its options can be summarized into what I said in my last Postscript:

“Such (official) timidity will not help dispel suspicion that the Philippine government itself will try, in stages, to (1) nip the charges by helping the Americans work out a settlement, (2) weaken the case and raise doubt that rape was committed and thereby justify an acquittal, (3) delay the proceedings so that the ONE-YEAR DEADLINE (!) in the VFA for completing litigation will overtake the case and the accused can then be shipped out beyond reach.”

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BARBARITY: Without meaning to dehumanize the heinous crime of rape under a ton of statistics, we pass on figures culled by the senator-husband of Lipa City Mayor Vilma Santos.

He said that more than 3,600 women and children had been raped this year before the Zamboanga college graduate suffered the same fate. This means that one woman is raped every two hours in this country, or 12 women a day.

The unidentified victim in the Subic Freeport was statistically the 12th victim that day. There were 4,514 reported cases in 2003.

But in the “heinousness yardstick” the rape allegedly committed by the GIs stands out, he said, “not for the color of their skin nor for the circumstances of their visit but for its sheer barbarity.”

I wonder where Vi’s husband got the detail, but he mentioned that the Subic victim was slung on the shoulder of her rapist “like a caveman hauling off a booty to his cave.” See, I told you, we would never run out of juicy details.

* * *

SEX CRIME SURGE: There is a surge in sex crimes against women, he warns.

“It’s for sociologists and criminologist to explain soberly why it’s happening,” he said. “Could it be the uncertainty of arrest of a serial rapist? Is it due to crowding in one-parent households? Is there something in the popular culture to vaguely suggest it? Is the justice system failing us?”

To top it all, the statistics show that more and more children are becoming victims of sexual crimes.

Police figures show that in 2003, he said, 3,397 children (those below 18 years of age) were raped as compared to the 1,117 women raped that year.

From 1999 to 2003, 21,445 women and children were raped, but the real number could be higher as most rapes go unreported to the police. For the same period, 66,713 women and children were victims of sex crimes, which included acts of lasciviousness, spousal battery, sexual trafficking and forced prostitution.

The number of victims, he said, will fill 1,110 buses. Reminds one of the trains where Jews were crammed on their way to gas death chambers.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 8, 2005)

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