Saturday, November 12, 2005

Visiting Forces Aggrievement

eminist and PDI Columnist Rina Jimenez David weighs in on the case of six US Marines accused of raping a 22-year old Filipino woman in Subic.

But before tackling her essay, let me say at the outset that I hope the accused all get gentle cellmates in Muntinglupa's Bilibid Prison if they are found guilty of the charges against them, a sentiment Americans are expressing too, along with fervent shame, in letters to Rowena Guanzon's Lucid Interval blog. Here's an excerpt from former US Marine Tom Mather, married to a Pinay:
...I for one am ashamed to my wife, children and my family there in the Philippines that such an act has been perpetrated no matter if she [alleged victim] was raped or otherwise. Their failure [the six accused] to act as ambassadors to the Philippines is an embarrasment to me as a former Marine as well as Husband and father to Filipino citizens...TOM...
But Rina David's column isn't really about the alleged rape of one Filipina woman in Subic. Rhetorically, it is really about the alleged gang-rape of the entire Filipino nation. She opens her piece by complaining about pressure from the US government for the Philippines to tighten up on the enforcement of human trafficking laws:
The US government, specifically the Bush administration, has chosen to take a high-profile role in the global campaign against trafficking in persons, alienating many governments by classifying countries according to their action or inaction against traffickers. "We need to see more progress in prosecution and convictions this year to avoid a downgrade to Tier 3 next year," Bellard threatened. Unfortunately, the attitude of Bush officials on the issue seems limited to viewing human trafficking as merely a criminal matter, and that the way to put an end to this cross-border crime is to rescue the women and children who fall victim to traffickers, arrest the traffickers, prosecute them and lock them behind bars.
Rina fumes that it is NOT enough to "merely rescue the women and children...arrest the traffickers, prosecute and lock them up" because all this doesn't get to the bottom causes of the problem:
It finds its roots in the status of women in both the "sending" and "receiving" countries, the commodification of women's bodies and exploitation of their sexuality.
Here a magical connection is made to the current rape case:
And that's why I have a problem with the incredible insensitivity displayed by a US Embassy official in lecturing Filipinos about our lack of resolve on trafficking, while the embassy itself is providing aid and shelter to six of its military personnel accused of gang-raping a Filipina.
Here she makes it appear like the same official is discussing the rape case AND lecturing the Filipinos about their human trafficking record, when actually these statements were made on completely different days and occasions. Such are the pressures of having to write as the resident nationalist feminist...

And talking about "lack of resolve," consider this statistic from the National Statistics Coordinating Board. Every single day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, SEVEN women, on average, are raped by Filipinos. That's over TEN THOUSAND rape victims just since the current VFA was signed. Chances are, seven more were raped since this morning when I first read Rina's article.

Now, I bet you that those victims of Pinoy-on-Pinay rape, and/or their surviving relatives, wouldn't mind a little of that "arrest, prosecute, lock-up" action suggested by US President George W. Bush, and NOT wait for evolution to take care of the "commodification of women's bodies." (I sure hope she means commoditification) But insensitive is as insensitive gets.

Meanwhile the Sassy Lawyer burns the toast with her recipe for solving the rape problem in the vicinity of Filipino human settlements: Scrap the VFA! Honestly, I couldn't make head or tail of what her argument was other than these horrible monsters are gonna get away with gang-rape for sure because that's how the VFA is set up, for the rest and recreation of these rapacious dreadnoughts of war, don't you know? Maybe what she really meant to say was: Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water!

Paradoxically, in her next post, the Sassy Lawyer defends the rights of Greenpeace activists to criminally trespass on the Masinloc Power Plant to protest "climate change." (ABSCBN reports.) Luckily the German Greenpeacenik involved was no danger to Filipino womanhood that day, as he got a crowbar in the head from the enraged guards, who might have thought they were dealing with a nut protesting the hot weather! The guards were right, but for the unfortunate German, I feel no schadenfreude. (I don't!)

What drives such writers to insist that rape by American soldiers is not just a heinous crime punishable by lethal injection or a lifetime with Pedro, but a cause for us to abrogate military and political alliances?

I respect both these fine women writers who struggle with issues of vast importance to us all. But it will help matters none if we automatically reach for formulae that only relieve a kind of ideological itch, to lash out at something, anything, to express the rage we feel at the way we are as a nation: weak, helpless, poor, and ignorable. Yet, the way to strength is not resentment, for our hatred will always be greater than our happiness in that case. And it certainly cannot be attained by hysterical, indefensible arguments.

From Denis W. Brogan: "It is a most grievous emotional loss--that of an excuse for one nation's misfortunes in the actions of another."

I think we lost that excuse in 1946. But our brains are still paralyzed by that loss.


1289347102947 said...

We'll see in a year if this case is wrapped up and the American rapists jailed.

I have a question for you: what if the case goes beyond a year and the American/s rapist/s are released of criminal liabilities (as per VFA proviso). How would you feel for your raped Filipina compatriot?

Annonimus said... are sooo right.

IMO, we're like kids who refuse to take responsibility. It's easier to blame others than to tell ourselves "Oops, I did it again...I ALLOWED others to stick it to me."

What our country needs is a good therapist.

Rizalist said...

A warm welcome folks! It's bright but hazy in Manila this morning, so I cannot see Talim Island far to the East, where I usually espy two men in the water.

I apologize for the inconvenience to some visitors who do not have BLOGGER accounts but want to join the comment thread. I'm forced to select this option because of the plague of splogs.

But it's actually faster to become a BLOGGER than other systems cycle of register-wait4email-goback, because there's no wait4email loop. I guarantee it: you could be ranting at my idiotic *^&%$-Philippine Commentaries within one minute of going to www dot blogger dot com.

To WordPress fans:::don't worry I hear Rizalist is on the job and getting ready to launch a blog from the Nineteenth Century. You heard it here first...

1289347102947 said...

"you could be ranting at my idiotic *^&%$-Philippine Commentaries"

You said it yourself-they're idiotic. No doubt.

Rizalist said...

Hi Tito boy,
Hope you feel better now, okay?

manuelbuencamino said...

Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water ?

What if its Rosemary's baby?

Rizalist said...

Welcome MB!
But you usually have more to say than that. I can take anything. I'm a sport. What is on your mind? Tell me so I can understand. I learn the most from those who disagree with me.

manuelbuencamino said...

What are we getting in exchange for granting what is in effect blanket diplomatic immunity?

I am not against agreements or treaties as long as there is parity. If there are disparities then how are they compensated?

Edwin Lacierda said...


I am in agreement with your thesis that various comments suggest throwing the baby out with the bath.

People tend to think that just because the US is the remaining super power capable of extending its hegemony everywhere, they must be stopped. I dont blame the Americans if the agreement appears to be one-sided. It's their job to max out all the benefits that they can secure. Heck, that ought to be the role of any negotiator for that matter.

What is deplorable is the conduct of the Filipino negotiators who do not seem to have the interests of our country in mind.

A simple thing like criminal jurisdiction having a life span of one year is utterly ridiculous. The Filipinos already abdicated custody, they further abbreviated jurisdiction to one year.

Like you said, I dont resent the Americans but what I mind is the spineless attitude of our negotiators and now, the palace announcement of letting them go back to Okinawa and then retracting that statement.

Did we make balimbing our national fruit already?

Annonimus said...

Never mind our negotiators....what about the public? Why don't we ever ask ourselves how we, as adult citizens, empowered by our education, let some agreement like that get through? The politicians in our country do what they do because we let them get away with it.

We march in the streets screaming for freedom and democracy but 20 years after EDSA 1, we still haven't learned the basics of democracy: PARTCIPATION. The key for any democracy to work is an empowered, responsible citizenry willing to stand up not just to be heard or counted - but to participate even if it's at the barangay level. We have an obligation as citizens to watch what our policy makers and lawmakers are doing and always be vigilant they are not selling the people short. But all we seem capable of doing is blaming others - after-the-fact. That is nothing but IRRESPONSIBLE.

Just take a look back at the issues hounding our country today - they all could have been avoided if only we were more vigilant before-the fact.

Honestly now, has anyone ever thought about just how sick we are?

Rizalist said...

Good questions and comments all. Sorry lang for the late responses here. Been out with "Mrs. Commentary" Can't blog against her!

But she did think of something brilliant I want to share with you:


MB: Thanks for the questions, which have to do with the proposition that the VFA as it stands is flawed and stacked against the Philippines. (though I doubt that they are SO flawed that alleged rapists actually have "diplomatic immunity"...they'd be in Hawaii by now, if that were true, not sweating bricks in Manila and trying to figure out how to explain this all to the folks back home.)

Now as Prof. Lacierda just pointed out, we are partly responsible for negotiating and signing the VFA.

But, let me grant MB's point because I think it is probably true! VFA IS FLAWED and it IS stacked against the Filipinos even in cases like this. That's what Sassy was trying to say.

Given the VFA is flawed, I think the proper response among ALLIES is to now improve the agreement and bring it into "parity" as you say, using precisely what happens in this case. The US military actually has some very strict rules and I've read on Guanzon's site that they are being investigated separately by their unit, maybe because the miitary realizes this really does endanger their mission here or at least compromises it. That investigation will produce a report that the Philippines can use to clobber the State Dept with and get better terms. The Americans are big boys, they will listen to reason if it is couched in terms of our MUTUAL INTERESTS and not the agenda of those whose ideological profession is to oppose the US at all costs. They've a right to that, but we have need not oblige their ambitions.

"SCRAP the VFA" is clearly going too far--way too far--which was why I was so hard on Rina and Sassy. It is a simple case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but in this case it is because they really never wanted the baby to begin with. That is still a legitimate political position: to be against the cooperating with our allies. But it is intellectually dishonest, IMO, to use the emotionalism and natural rage of people in this case in order to attain that legitimate end.

That end, while legitimate, cannot be justified by demagogic means.

But I don't want to sound like a cold analytical fish who doesn't care about the suffering of the victim and the fact that the Kano are kind of like what happens when rich kids from Ayala Alabang or Valle Verde are caught in sensational crimes like rape or carnapping. They get the best lawyers and the benefit of the doubt and the protection of their families. It's maddening. coz you know that they probably will get away with it or have as someone said, Erap-style jail cells.
But you cannot then ban rich kids from going near cars just because some of them might steal one.

I guess the other way to attack it is, WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT TOURISTS? I don't have the stats, but I am sure lots of Filipinas are raped, gypped, betrayed or even mugged by foreign tourists. Should we then also abrogate all the treaties we have signed with allies on tourists?

Any way you look at it "scrap the vfa" is a suggestion aimed not at solving this rape case per se but rescuing victory from defeat.

Finally consider what WOULD happen if we scrapped the VFA. Then all bets would really be off on the six accused because there would be no framework for handling the case.


Hey anno ni mus...I like your name.

manuelbuencamino said...


If there were no VFA, the 6 GIs would be under complete Philippine jurisdiction and custody. The framework would be the Revised Penal Code.

As to tourists, well they come here at their own risk and ours. If they commit crimes and they're busted, they suffer the consequences whether it be imprisonment or a hefty bribe.

Like I said, I am not against agreements per se, All I want is parity. Which leads me to this question : where do you get justice in criminal cases except through the justice system of the country whose laws were broken?

In other words, for surrendering custody and control over the length of time for criminal prosecution what do we get? What does the victim get? Do we follow the arab practice of blood money? Do we get warplanes for every victim? If so, how do we compute it?

The US will not, under any circumstances, sign an agreement where they surrender their privelege of custody over their soldiers accused of criminal offenses. They might make exceptions on a case to case basis basis but they will never agree to any blanket surrender of this privelege.

So the burden is on us. We either go along to get along or we don't and we're on their shitlist. It is, from the US standpoint, you are with us or against us. So, as the old saying goes, the powerful get what they want and the weak try to keep what they can, Or, to paraphrase what my favorite journalist used to say about Nixon, "In a world run by swine, all pigs are upward-mobile and the rest of us are f**ked until we can put our acts together: Not necessarily to Win, but mainly to keep from Losing Completely - Hunter s. Thompson.

So the question remains - how do we balance agreements like VFA? Not necessarily to win but to keep from completely losing.

Rizalist said...

Thank you, Manuel Bunecamino. I am forced to make an admission: I don't have a nice pat answer to your question: how do we balance agreements like the VFA. The VFA after all, is a mere piece of paper with a bunch of provisions that may or may not lead to acceptable settlements to all parties in all situations.

It is impossible to DEMAND a document that is so perfect that it can render perfect justice in all cases (such as the Consitution JDV-GMA-FVR are cooking up). The claim that the VFA is flawed is probably true, but is it so onerous as to be unacceptable?

Probably not, so maybe the answer to your question is a method of successive approximation. The two parties that negotiated and made the agreement, we must assume, got it say, 80% right. Given the present circumstances and our relative position of strength even among the US public on this possibly heinous crime, we should now use every ounce of legal genium to take that 80% and push it up to 90% (it won't ever get to 100%). (You could argue with the fractions some, but I hope that pushes this discussion forward).

Most of all, we have to assume that as allies, the US is just as concerned about the impact of this on their own national interest--the war on terror--just as it is with the Philippines. That after all is what the VFA is all about for the US, as it should be for the Philippines.

The US wont surrender custory of its citizens in the meantime the case is being adjudicated, perhaps because the US legitimately and humanely wants to shield its citizens from the barbaric conditions in Philippines jails even before they are found guilty in a court of law. Though everyone who falls n Philippine jurisdiction is exposed to those barbaric conditions, those barbaric conditions ARE NOT in the Revised Penal Code as part of the punishment for heinous crimes, which is properly limited to lethal injection or hanging until dead. How do we know for example that ALL six raped the girl? Maybe one of them didn't and could tell the truth but is being threatened. Remember the old saying we will give liberty to ten guilty men rather than wronfully deprive an innocent man of his.

I think in fact, not you Mr. B., but some people want precisely that to happen that they get a taste of Philippine jails even b4 they are tried and convicted. That's intellectually indecent.

As to "what does the girl get in the meantime?" there is where it truly gets cruel and tragic, because unfortunately she is in the Filipino side of the agreement and is therefore the one who IS exposed to the barbaric conditions in the Philippines. Like all victims she gets the shortest end of the stick, whether we do nothing or scrap the VFA.

I think she has a better chance testifying in the upcoming US Military investigations into this matter. She stands a better chance of convicting them there. But of course certain Filipinos won't let her since she is far more valuable as a victim to them than someone who might prove that allies can exercise together for against a common threat AND render justice. That would prove that both the alliance and democracy work. They don't want that and they don't really want justice for the victim.

That's my best attempt at MB's really tough but valuable questions!

Sassy Lawyer said...

I defended the Greenpeace activists?? LOL Either you neglected to click the Read full text link when you saw my entry in the index page or you're intentionally misreading meanings in my entry that weren't there.

The full text is here.

Trosp said...

I like your blog and I'll be browsing it from now on. I hope I can hear something from MB from your last comment.

Rizalist said...

SASSY: You are RIGHT. I was WRONG to say you defended the rights of the Greenpeace activists to commit criminal tresspass. I APOLOGIZE for the rash judgment. I shall say so again when I write a follow-up. I hope you will continue to provide the legal AND moral muscle we need.

Rizalist said...

Welcome TROSP! It's a humble start, but as you can see I have great friends and now the potential of one more.

AmericanPainter said...

I appreciate your common sense approach to relations between our countries. We are fighting a common enemy and certainly it is to the benefit of us both to have good relations.
With regard to the U.S. Marines in question, even without proof of rape (as of now) what they did in public was purely stupid and inexcusable. Public drunkenness and lewd behavior, in itself puts the rest of us in a bad light.
I express the same sentiment as Tom Mather. As an American, married to a Pinay and residing in the Philippines, I am embarrassed. If the allegations against these Marines are proven to be true, they should suffer punishment under Filipino law just as anyone else.
However, they have not yet been proven guilty and I find it somewhat disturbing to read other blog remarks that want to treat them as though they were. As a former Marine, I know they will not escape justice, if proven guilty. While they will face Military Court Marshall, they will also face trial under Philippine jurisdiction, a sort of double jeopardy, but necessary because of being in the Military.
Contrary to the wish of some however, they will not languish with Pedro in a Philippine jail until proven guilty. Hence they will remain in custody of the Embassy, they are at this point accused but not yet convicted. After conviction, all bets are off.
Many have questioned much about the VFA, but one thing that keeps popping up is the one year trial proviso within the treaty. Under the U.S. Bill of Rights, each American is guaranteed a speedy trial. American negotiators have a mandate to insure that this happens. Trials in the Philippines are notably slow in forthcoming.

Rizalist said...

Thanks American Painter.
Your thoughts and sentiments would meet with general agreement from the overwhelming majority of Americans and Filipinos, I would say. It is that consensus about many things that some try very hard to deny exists because they want these two old friends and allies divided. They are afraid of what would happen if the Filipinos and Americans really do start acting like allies again, as with the British and Aussies. Thank you for helping to build upon that rock of common sense, the mutual understanding we need to meet the future united. I want Filipinos to proudly take their place in the Anglosphere to which we undoubtedly, and irreversibly belong, in our eighty millions strong, both here and in America.

Trosp said...


Actually, it's not the blog owner that makes the blog something you're be comfortable with but also the commenters.

Maraming blog - no man's land. Puro basura ang comments. The tendency is mapapagaya ka na rin.

Rizalist said...

Maybe that is why the blog owner also controls the DELETE button. I hope I never have to use that here because even "trash comments" are revealing of the person sending them. As a student of human nature, all raw data is useful to me, though I wont lose sleep over them knowing I can incinerate anything "over the line" since the blog owner must consider the feeling of other visitors too. Thanks.