Friday, March 20, 2009

In her own words

The Philippines ranks first globally in having the most number of women in business management posts, according to a survey by the accountancy and advisory firm Grant Thornton International. The survey of 36 countries said 47 percent of senior corporate positions here are currently occupied by women. The mean average worldwide is 24 percent.

On the other hand, a Manila Times story by Ana Santos and Xu Lingui of Xinhua, “Women clean up image of ‘Filipina,’” showed research on the Internet yielded unflattering comments and stories on female Filipinos, mostly linked to sex, electronic dating, prostitution, mail-order brides and pornography. There is much misinformation on our women, but it turned out that many Filipinas have placed themselves on websites for jobs and marriage proposals.

Which brings us to Suzette “Nicole” Nicolas, the 24-year-old woman who claimed three years ago that she was raped in Subic by US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith. Nicole became a symbol of oppression, a rallying point for human-rights lobbyists and her trauma a valid argument for the termination of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement, where Smith and hundreds of American troops had taken part. The court heard her complaint, tried and convicted the lance corporal. Smith, however, eluded imprisonment and was placed in the custody of the US Embassy in Manila.

It remains unclear if the Nicole case would burnish or further darken the image of Filipino women. Is she a victim or an opportunist? The legal ramifications, after her recantation, are equally murky. Would her affidavit close the case and free Smith, or does he remain in jail while she faces perjury for her 2005 testimony? Her supporters hope she would get a fresh break in America, but lawyers see a sell-out (for the money she had received) and a travesty of justice.

Here is a woman who wanted to succeed in life. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Management Accounting and had taken up nursing in Zamboanga City. After juggling a series of jobs in Zamboanga, she and her family moved to Subic where the “tragic experience” eventually took place.

A confused mind, a failure of memory

Her affidavit, submitted to the court on March 12, explains why she doubts her recollection of the rape. It unmasks a confused mind, a failure of memory and a lack of self-esteem. Her retelling of the event has expectedly raised disappointment and outrage. Here, in her own words, she replays that confused night.

“Daniel Smith’s witnesses said that while we were at the Neptune Club, I sat on Daniel Smith’s lap and that we kissed each other passionately. I remember that before I met Daniel Smith at the Neptune Club, all I ate was a slice of pizza at the Grand Leisure Hotel. After the pizza, everything else was alcoholic drinks from vodka sprite, B52, Singaporean sling, B53, Long Island ice tea to bullfrog all of which I drank bottoms up. I do not recall Daniel Smith having ordered any alcohol drink for me. My drinks were all paid for by Chris Mills who invited me to go to the Neptune Club.”

That set the stage for her meeting with Smith at the Neptune. They danced, kissed and hugged each other. She enjoyed his company, was “attracted to him.” They had a good time at the club.

Smith took her for a ride on a van from the club to the Alaba Pier. She passed out, she claimed, and said she had no memory of any of this advances. Yet when she got out of the van at the seawall, where the American had abandoned her, the people who saw her “seemed to have drawn the conclusion” she was raped. Someone called the SBMA police and they brought her to the station for investigation. In closing:

“I expect many sectors to question my motives in executing this statement more than three years after the incident. However, as I practically grew up interacting with American servicemen in Zamboanga City who treated me and my family very well, and thinking over and over again how I may have conducted myself at the Neptune Club, I can’t help but entertain doubts on whether the sequence of events in Subic last November of 2005 really occurred the way the court found them to have happened.

“My conscience continues to bother me realizing that I may have in fact been so friendly and intimate with Daniel Smith at the Neptune Club that he was led to believe that I was amenable to having sex or that we simply just got carried away. I would rather risk public outrage than do nothing to help the court in ensuring that justice is served.”

Many questions left unanswered

She has not helped her case, cleared Smith or served justice. Her affidavit leaves many questions unanswered. Her story is one more juicy item for the Internet. It is a sad footnote to the observance of Women’s Month.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

7 − three =