November 26, 2006

Reflections on being a godmother

You know you are undeniably getting older, not necessarily richer or wiser, when you find yourself spending more and more time in the beauty parlor, having your hair done for a wedding ceremony that you are marching in as one among the many pairs of godparents.

Some take it as a measure of success, if not respectability; that is, how often one is chosen ninang among so many other qualified and willing candidates. This is especially so among the well-heeled since being a godparent entails gifting the newly-weds with something commensurate to the giver’s station in life, and the esteem with which the couple or their parents are held by the godparent.

Theoretically, the role of a godparent, as surrogate parent, extends long after the wedding bells have stopped ringing. It ranges from helping the couple stabilize financially by helping the husband land a job, or the wife a side occupation to augment the family income. It also includes mediating marital spats, especially when serious, and the couple have no one else to turn to. The godparent, many times, becomes the friendly neighborhood savings and loan bank, the patient marriage counselor and the person who can be relied upon to give aid, comfort and support to the inexperienced married couple.

Some people welcome being asked to be ninang because of the accompanying high regard that is traditionally accorded this particular religio-social position. Some shun the distinction and honor because they feel they cannot fulfill the accompanying responsibilities and obligations, whether financial or moral, of a true godparent.

In truth, what being ninang is a measure of depends, to a large extent, on the couple’s criteria, which in turn, reflects on their priorities, values and general outlook in life. Sometimes, it boils down to “tell me who your ninong and ninang are and I’ll tell you who you are (or want to be, anyway).”

Walking down the wedding aisle as a godparent, one can’t help recall one’s own ceremony, choices for ninong and ninang and reflect on the extent to which one has lived out or fulfilled the dreams, hopes and goals one had at the time.

I got hitched right after medical internship to my loyal boyfriend of nine years. That period spanned carefree years as a member of the apolitical UP Student Catholic Action (UPSCA); the heady years of activism in the state university and urban poor communities of Quezon City; the defining years of martial law, going underground, getting caught, becoming a political prisoner; and, ironically, the sobering years of burning the midnight oil as a medical student cum community health activist.
If a relationship can be likened to a dagger of steel, fashioned and tempered by years of constant trial and a measure of tribulation, ours was more than ready for plunging into the joyful yet painfully complex state of marriage. But how could we responsibly raise a family while struggling to free our country from a brutal dictatorship and working towards the seemingly remote ideals of justice, equality, peace and prosperity?

Our wedding had the trappings of a middle class, romantic affair consciously reined in by a desire to keep things simple yet memorable and meaningful, affordable but acceptable to some fairly conservative kith and kin. The wedding gown was expensive but borrowed from a sister-in-law (for after all, she had only worn it once). There was no wedding cake, no doves and no tokens but there was a string ensemble from the UP College of Music that included a venerable music professor playing the violin.

We were one of the first to use the inner garden of the San Agustin church for the wedding reception, predating what would become the de rigueur arrangement for weddings in the ‘80s and ‘90s when traffic hassles made a long commute to the reception venue a thing of the past. There was a decidedly sweet and convivial atmosphere to the garden with its old stone fountain strewn with deep red roses from Baguio courtesy of a brother-in-law who made the trip on the old Kennon Road to get the blooms fresh and cheap. But we also scrimped on the “official photographer” ending up with a friend who had to leave early and another dear friend who stayed but had a limited roll of film.

The mass and wedding rites had enough passages to suggest that the couple tying the knot were nationalists and progressives who integrated the vow of “serve the people” with that of “love one another… for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part.” My classmates in medical school sang the old ballads about love and commitment while the Augustinian friars provided the soprano who did the arias for the solemn mass.

The godparents were an interesting mix of people who we looked up to and who shared, or at least respected, our progressive outlook and politics to one degree or another. They included veteran journalist and UP Dean Armando Malay and his wife, writer and human rights advocate par excellence Carolina Malay; the visionary and affable UP College of Medicine Dean Florentino Herrera Jr., and my academic and real life mentors, obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Natividad Puertollano and pathologist Dr. Jaime Zamuco; and last but not least, a solicitous mother of a fellow UPSCAn who doted on us, Mrs. Alice Lejano.

If our godparents harbored any lingering doubt about whether we would live happily ever after -- what with my strong headedness and radical politics vis-a vis my spouse’s more mature outlook though more moderate political views – they never raised it. Like all good-hearted, discreet godparents, they wished us luck and prayed for the best. One ninang forecast that we would raise beautiful children while another advised me to hold my clinic in my residence so as not to “sacrifice” the kids while I spent all my time with a busy medical practice not to mention a busier activist involvement.

I wonder now what they would say, 26 years, two grown-up kids, four presidents and two “people power” uprisings later.

Two days ago, I marched down the aisle to be a ninang at the wonderful wedding of two dedicated activists who sang their vows to each other. Apart from me, the entourage of godparents included a former vice president, now leader of the broad movement calling for the ouster of the Arroyo regime; a former cabinet secretary-turned-fiery-orator at protest rallies; a national artist for literature and ex-political detainee; a former peace negotiator for the revolutionary movement-turned-legislator; a successful business woman-turned-feisty government critic; and an urban poor mother of 11 leading a local community-based health program.

The line-up said a lot about the couple and the challenging times we are in. I was happy and proud to be a ninang in that sweet, romantic wedding ceremony that was the happy newlywed’s political and personal statement.###

*Published in Business World
24-25 November 2006

November 16, 2006

Or else

The headline of a widely-read national broadsheet blared: “Foreign businesses to GMA: Stop killings.” The prominence given to this development is deserved because it is unprecedented. We do not recall any instance any time in the past -- not even during the martial law years -- that the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce (JFC) or any similar grouping of foreign investors in the Philippines expressed its deep concern, or made any public statement, much more a strongly worded one, on the dire human rights situation besetting the country.

The message is very clear. It is not only an appeal; it is a warning, if not a threat: stop the killings or we pull our investments out. The threat is aimed at the jugular. It unequivocally and categorically states that failure of the government to stop the killings will affect investments and economic aid, the very things the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration hopes to attract by showing the creditors and investors -- through unabated, increased, and relentless state repression -- that she can defeat the opposition and crush the insurgency.

It is unanimous, representing all the economic powers: US, Europe, Japan and more. The unanimity -- speaking critically and with one voice -- is likewise unprecedented. Big business has been wont to turn a blind eye to values such as justice, human rights and democratic freedoms, etc. for so long as it could be assured of a stable business environment and its return on investment. The foreign chambers of commerce have certainly trumped their Filipino counterparts.

The JFC position constitutes a double whammy. The concern of foreign big business is grounded on moral-ethical values as well as the financial/business viewpoint. According to the JFC, “Such violence has no place in a modern democratic state. For the sake of justice and to deter continued killings, these murders should be investigated thoroughly and those found responsible punished under the law." It underscored “government responsibility to protect its citizens....” At the same time it urged the government “to bring an end to a serious blemish to the country’s international image, which could impact negatively on future foreign investment and foreign economic assistance.”

The presidential spokesman, Mr. Bunye, had nothing much to say. He condemned the killings anew and once more vowed action; he mumbled something about Mrs. Arroyo meeting a representative of the human rights group Amnesty International and seeking the help of the European Community in investigating the killings during her trip to Europe last month. Malacanang appealed for patience, passed the buck to the victims and their families for failing to cooperate with authorities and reminded those who cared to listen that all talk about political killings is part of an “insidious campaign to discredit the national government.”

General Razon, the police general who heads the special task force created by Mrs. Arroyo purportedly to undertake a no-nonsense investigation of the killings, did Mr. Bunye better. He questioned the credibility and motives of the human rights alliance, Karapatan, and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP), groups that keep tabs on the number of those killed and the progress, or lack of it, in the solution of the murders. Mr. Razon attempted to belittle the magnitude and urgency of the problem of extrajudicial killings of activists, other progressives and journalists as a case of such watchdog groups’ “overstating the figures” and “manipulating the facts”.

On the other hand, he tried to parry the criticism of party list Bayan Muna, one of the hardest hit with over a hundred officials and members killed, that the police have a “zero conviction rate against all suspected perpetrators and masterminds.” Mr. Razon said that the problem was in the “proper definition” of a solved case. For the police, so long as suspects have been identified and cases filed against them, it did not really matter whether a suspect was arrested or not. The case is considered “solved.” Prosecution and a court conviction are not the concern of the police. This explains their widespread practice of conducting illegal arrests and forcing confessions though torture, the police version of “standard operating procedure”, that often result in the dismissal of the cases filed against suspects. Clearly, Mr. Razon’s preferred definition has nothing to do with the rule of law much less the pursuit of justice.

The killer explanation though is the one that the Arroyo government has been trying to bamboozle the media and the general public with: that the killing spree is the handiwork of the communists themselves. The motives range from organizational punishment for alleged wrongdoing by the victims, to infighting, to a sophisticated CPP/NPA plot to kill its own members in order to pin the blame on the government.

Unfortunately for Mrs. Arroyo’s spin doctors, groups such as the Joint Foreign Chambers, specific multinational corporations such as Wal-Mart, Gap and and Polo Ralph Lauren, the International Parliamentarians Union as well as foreign churches and faith-based institutions – all unlikely partners in an alleged “communist conspiracy” to topple the government – are not buying the official line. They are demanding both action to stop the killings and state accountability in truly solving the murders.

What is the real message that we can glean from the terse statement of concern from the institutional representatives of foreign capital? Aren’t they really saying that the unabated and unchecked killings are already bad for business and that the Arroyo government better do something to stop the killings, or else.

Or else, what, remains to be seen. It could be that some investors pull out or stay out, while the rest, the really big ones, intervene to protect their capital.

Either way it looks bad for GMA. The illegitimate occupant of Malacanang can expect to have more restless days and sleepless nights. ###

November 09, 2006

The return of fascist rule

Anyone who has yearned for and enjoyed the inner peace and tranquility brought about by a period of complete silence and focused meditation knows the shock of sudden and unexpected intrusion of any form, more so the jarring violence of physical aggression imposed with arrogance and abuse of authority. Therefore the forcible entry and intrusive search into the convent of the Contemplatives of the Good Shepherd (CGS) in the late evening of All Saints Day is a clear travesty.

Not only did the police raiding team headed by a certain Colonel Wilfredo Reyes, violate the law by failing to present a valid search warrant, they completely disregarded the internationally recognized principle of sanctuary accorded to churches, mosques and similar religious venues. (The same raiding team subsequently attempted to enter the convent of the Missionary Sisters of Mary and also conducted a search at the San Lorenzo Ruiz Pastoral Center, all located within the vicinity of Baan, Butuan City.)

The lame excuse that the police did not know what “contemplative” means and that it was a case of “mistaken identity” appears to be a clumsy attempt to escape blame for official wrongdoing; if true, it also exposes police incompetence of the highest order.

Why, in the wake of this latest outrage, is there complete silence, amounting to tacit approval, from the Arroyo government, starting with the immediate superiors of the police unit that conducted the raid, all the way up to the police top brass, the Department of Interior and Local Government and Malacañang itself?

Such a response from the authorities is no longer surprising. Until the hue and cry from the local and international human rights community, the Arroyo regime had resorted to looking the other way and pretending that no violations of human rights were taking place. It repeatedly said that the political killings were merely the result of the overactive imagination of human rights organizations such as Karapatan, whose motives are, in the first place, suspect, since these are considered by the Arroyo government to be “front organizations” of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army.

When the official denials and washing of hands became patently unacceptable, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, created a police task force and then a so-called “independent” commission to investigate the rash of political killings. If only to give these bodies an iota of credibility, one would have expected that they make some sort of statement condemning the CGS raid as well as the most recent murder of the chairperson of the Eastern Samar chapter of Karapatan, who was gunned down using the old modus operandi of death squads cited by Amnesty International. Except for the condemnation by Butuan diocese Bishop Juan de Pueblos, himself incidentally a member of the Melo Commission, we have not heard a squeak from the much-vaunted but inutile investigative body.

The uniformly complete silence of superiors all the way up to Malacañang confirms that all these illegal actions by state authorities are not isolated incidents but are done in accordance with state policy. More ominously, these recent incidents show the Arroyo regime is bent on intensifying its violent and indiscriminate persecution not only of its political opponents but also those who advocate human rights, justice and peace.

Clearly, Malacañang no less, should be held accountable not only because it continues to fail to put a stop to these gross and wanton human rights violations, but because it has initiated all these in the first place through its militarist policy of “total war against the Left” and because it continues to encourage and reward the perpetrators in spite of widespread condemnation and its own posturing and protestations of innocence.

To the victims of the state’s human rights violations and their supporters, the Arroyo regime is not just an accomplice or compliant collaborator, it is the mastermind of all these crimes.

These recent events leave no doubt as to the real danger, if not the intent, behind the Anti-terrorism Bill (ATB) that Mrs. Arroyo wants approved by the Senate before the ASEAN ministerial meeting that the Philippines is hosting in December. Not content with getting away with murder and other grievous offenses, Malacañang wants the state apparatus to have an even greater leeway to invade privacy, arrest and detain indefinitely on the basis of the flimsiest (and in practice, fabricated) accusations, proscribe legitimate protest actions such as industrial strikes and political rallies and illegalize legitimate organizations critical of government, and a whole slew of fascist measures that would allow it to rule with an iron hand without having to declare martial law.

In fact the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), “a leading international non-governmental organization consisting of jurists who represent all the regions and legal systems in the world, working to uphold the rule of law and the legal protection of human rights,” has urged the Philippine Senate not to adopt the ATB without “significant amendments to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law.”

The ICJ specifically cited “the proposed reintroduction of the death penalty as punishment for the crime of terrorism, excessive periods of detention without judicial authorization, and a number of other far-reaching law enforcement powers accorded to the military.” The ICJ noted that history gives ample evidence that “using the military in policing increases the risks of human rights abuses as they are not trained as investigators, law enforcers, prison officials or experts examining bank records.”

The ICJ was further concerned about the powers and accountability of a new Anti-Terrorism Council to be created by the ATB. To wit, “The Council will have far-reaching and at times open-ended powers, including the establishment of extensive data-bases, a special counter-terrorism force and other powers without specifying their scope, modalities and democratic control.”

The Anti-terrorism Bill promises to be the legal firmament for the return of fascist dictatorship while maintaining the grand pretense of “democratic” rule. Without a doubt, it also will create a firestorm of protest and resistance that will signal the end of another oppressive and reviled ruler the same way the unlamented dictator Marcos was toppled by an aroused Filipino people.###

*Published in Business World
10-11 November 2006

November 03, 2006

Indicting the Arroyo regime

In simple rites held under historically significant circumstances, the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal: Second Session on the Philippines was convened in the Hague, the Netherlands last October 30, upon the appeal of Philippine human rights and people’s organizations. The first session on the Philippines held twenty six years ago in 1980, in Antwerp, Belgium had indicted the United States-backed Marcos dictatorship of grave crimes against the Filipino people.

The government of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has reacted to the filing of charges by victims of grievous human rights violations with the dismissive remark of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, a former military general, that this is again the handiwork of the “leftists” and “militants,” with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as the “brains”. Mr. Ermita concludes that this legal action is biased and underhanded, part and parcel of the general plan to “topple the government and establish communist rule”. This, he said, is the underlying reason behind efforts “to humiliate our President before an international court”.

Let the fair and independent-minded judge for themselves on the basis of two important objective considerations: First, the charges and the reasons given by complainants for bringing their case to the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT); second, the nature, background and track record of the PPT itself.

The victims of gross human rights violations – summary executions, abductions and enforced disappearances, torture and massacres -- cry for justice. The Philippine criminal justice system can offer nothing except systematic cover-up and outright reprisal against witnesses and aggrieved parties since the suspected perpetrators are state agents or death squads under their direction, implementing what Mrs. Arroyo herself announced last June as her regime’s policy of “total war against the Left.”

“Total war” is nothing but a policy of annihilation, not just of armed guerillas waging a thirty seven-year-old armed struggle against the government but legal, unarmed political and social activists and their supporters. In the era of the US-designed “war on terror,” such state policy and its bloody consequences, when implemented by states allied to the US, are considered in official circles as completely understandable and justified, not subject to international law, in particular human rights and international humanitarian law, and met with silent complicity if not approbation.

The Filipino people -- poor, hungry and miserable, reeling from decades of economic policy dictates of the US-dominated multilateral agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and now the World Trade Organization -- do not see any light at the end of the tunnel. A succession of elite-ruled governments, albeit claiming to be democratic in contrast to their predecessor, the Marcos dictatorship, have sustained policy frameworks that work against the basic interests of the Filipino people, and are lopsidedly in favor of foreign multinational corporations and banks such as the “honorable debt policy” and neoliberal doctrines of liberalization, deregulation and privatization. These pro-imperialist policies are consistently implemented in a blind, servile and completely callous way. In the era of imperialist “globalization,” such actuations of Third World regimes are applauded by international capital and justified by economic, political and cultural institutions under its sway.

The Filipino nation, continues to suffer under an unfinished process of decolonization; in fact, the Philippines is a neocolony of the US. Thus, the sovereign right of the Filipino people to chart their own destiny according to their own best lights has effectively been suppressed and undermined by their erstwhile colonizer with the indispensable help of a series of pro-US domestic regimes. As a consequence, the country continues to play its assigned role in US geopolitical strategy and acts as a reliable cog in the superpower’s war machine.

The indisputable proof: despite a constitutional prohibition against the presence of foreign military installations and troops on Philippine soil, thousands of US troops freely move in and out of Philippine territory throughout the year, without so much as a by-your-leave except, presumably, perfunctory notice to some government functionary or agency.

Thus the complainants have charged the GMA and Bush governments, the IMF, World Bank and the WTO and selected multinational corporations and banks with violations of human rights, especially civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights, together with violations of the rights to national self-determination and liberation.

In a time of the US-led “war of terror” in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and other sovereign countries resisting US interventionism or that have significant national liberation movements, the PPT is more than ever relevant as an “international opinion tribunal, independent from any State authority, which publicly and analytically examines cases regarding violations of human rights and rights of peoples.”

According to the Lelio Basso Foundation which set up the PTT and has the mandate to convene it, the complaints are submitted by the victims themselves or groups representing them. The Tribunal was founded in June 1979 in Italy by law experts, writers and other intellectuals drawn from all regions in the world. This tribunal succeeded the Russell Tribunals I and II which had exposed the war crimes of the 1960s and 1970s committed in Vietnam, and was presided by Bertrand Russell, then Jean-Paul Sartre and Lelio Basso, a renowned Italian senator.

The PPT has a track record of assembling highly respected, credible, independent and socially conscious individuals to delve into cases of blatant, widespread, systematic, state-sponsored/perpetrated violations of human rights, international law and the rights of nations under the general guidance of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples or The Algiers Declaration adopted in 1976.

The PPT considers it a right and obligation for individuals, as citizens of the world, to shape, develop and refine international law “in accordance with human needs and human values.”

The member jurors in the PPT First Session on the Philippines stated in their verdict: “Such an obligation is especially strong in the present historical period where crimes of state are widespread and intense, go unpublished, and are often committed in concert with international institutions, especially those institutions operating in the economic sphere. We refuse to sit idly by and watch, without attempting to remedy, this accumulating record of official abuse and institutional repression.”

The PPT Second Session indictment shows that the Philippines has not substantially moved away from political repression and military abuse despite the ouster of a military-backed, US-propped dictatorship nor has it broken free of its neocolonial status despite loud proclamations of being an independent and democratic republic.

GMA and her retinue of apologists ignore the PPT Second session on the Philippines at their own peril even as their chief backer, the Bush administration, is clearly on the way to being a lame duck president that rightly deserves the American people’s rejection in the coming November mid-term US polls as well as being consigned to the garbage heap of history, earning the world peoples’ scorn and lasting condemnation.###

*Published in Business World
3-4 November 2006

November 02, 2006

Subic rape case, a year after

Nicole is the pseudonym used by the Filipino victim in the sensational rape case involving “visiting” US troops out for some “rest and recreation” in Subic, formerly the biggest US naval base outside the US mainland. Almost a year after the incident, she appears to be a normal, comely young woman, in the flush of life. But that life came to a standstill close to a year ago when she came across six US marines who jointly took advantage of her vulnerability, abused her and then dumped her like a used rag on the sidewalk in full view of several witnesses.

In the beginning, Nicole’s case appeared strong. The Filipino driver of the hired van where the rape took place gave corroborating testimony. There were witnesses to how she was lifted out of the van “like a pig” by the soldiers and left on the pavement with her pants and panties down to her knees. They threw out a used condom after her.

There were witnesses on how she was so drunk when the soldiers brought her out of the Neptune Club she couldn’t have given her consent to go along with them much less engage in consensual sex as they claimed in their defense.

She was not a prostitute (not that prostitutes can’t be raped). She had just graduated from a reputable Catholic university and was managing a family-owned canteen inside a Philippine military compound. She had come to Subic, Olongapo City, with three of her siblings, one of them a minor, simply to have a good time. They even had their strict mother’s permission to travel thousands of miles to Luzon from their hometown in Mindanao.

Nicole was warned that her story could be turned upside down. She would likely be portrayed as a “loose woman” out to catch herself a handsome, white American boy and easy passage to the US of A, still the “land of milk and honey” for many Filipinos. Against all odds, including the social stigma of being a rape victim, Nicole decided to pursue her case.

But she hadn’t calculated on the sole Superpower’s latest jingoistic adventure called the “war against terror” and what it meant for the Philippines. She didn’t know that Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the de facto president, had taken on the role of number one bugle girl for US imperialism in Southeast Asia, in an astute bid to shore up her shaky hold on power.

She wasn’t even aware that her case would get caught up in the long-running debate on whether the continuing presence of thousands of US soldiers in the country courtesy of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) was good or bad for the country and its people.

Trouble started to appear when Philippine authorities quite easily gave up custody over the six accused soldiers to US authorities. The VFA provisions regarding criminal jurisdiction over erring US soldiers became exposed as inutile guarantees, especially in the hands of a politically servile and legally inept government, that crimes committed by US servicemen in the country would be dealt with under the Philippine criminal justice system.

A hallmark of any self-respecting sovereign country, its primordial right to independently investigate, arrest, prosecute and punish any foreigner accused of committing crimes inside its territory had been effectively ceded to the country’s former colonizer. Meanwhile, the presidential spokesperson warned against “Leftists” whipping up anti-US sentiment in the wake of an “isolated” case.

Despite some noises from government quarters, notably the Senate, calling for a review and even abrogation of the VFA, if it were found, in Nicole’s case, to be prejudicial to Philippine interests, the US government got what it wanted. Custody, the most seasoned Filipino trial lawyers money could buy, and a mandatory one-year trial period during which time it could undertake a well-oiled public relations campaign creating local public opinion favorable to the accused.

The Filipino public would be reminded of how the US armed forces are the bulwark in the “global fight against terrorism” and that US soldiers are “trained to be disciplined ambassadors of good will, sensitive to local culture and values” and could therefore not engage in such a heinous crime as gang rape against a local girl.

Nicole was given the consuelo de bobo of government-provided high-profile women lawyers who, truth be told, appeared to be more concerned about how they looked rather than laying the ground for a successful prosecution of the case. Until Nicole was able to obtain private lawyers willing to work pro bono, whom she could trust, did the uphill struggle to get justice appear to have a glimmer of hope.

The private prosecutors quickly realized however that the justice system could not be relied upon to uphold their client’s rights and legitimate concerns. One legal setback came after another. Only four of the accused and the driver of the van were eventually found by the first fiscal assigned to the case to be liable for the crime of rape. However, the Olongapo judge, in a highly questionable ruling, dropped the driver from being co-accused by saying that the decision to charge him was an afterthought and that this was motivated by the driver’s recantation of parts of his previous testimony favorable to the accused.

Subsequently, Justice Secretary Gonzales ruled that three of the of the four principal co-accused should have the charges against them downgraded. This decision was met with disbelief by the fiscal who engaged Mr. Gonzales in a public argument but who was eventually forced to resign from the case for disagreeing with his boss.

Mr. Gonzales clearly undermined the government’s own case by stating that he would not “bow to the mob” calling for more than one to be charged as part of the conspiracy to commit the crime of rape. He lambasted the Makati City judge who eventually took over the trial and rejected his decision to downgrade.

The new Makati City prosecutors also resigned, likely feeling the heat from the Justice secretary who had made it crystal clear that he would be breathing down their necks during the trial. In their stead, Mr. Gonzales appointed a team from the Justice Department itself headed by a certain State Prosecutor de los Santos. In this way, Mr. Gonzales acquired more direct supervision and control of the public prosecutors and presumably how they would try to win – or lose—the case.

The rest is of public knowledge: how the public prosecutors bungled the cross-examination of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith who admitted to having consensual sex with Nicole; how this provoked the victim and her mother to cry foul and disclose unethical proposals by Prosecutor de los Santos that the victim enter into an out-of-court settlement with the accused; how Ms. De los Santos in turn badmouthed her client on national television as someone who could not be trusted to tell the truth.

Pushed to the wall, Nicole and her mother demanded the replacement of the public prosecution panel but Mr. Gonzales refused. The public prosecutors proceeded to undermine the case with several more highly questionable moves until the trial ended in a climate of betrayal, recrimination and gloom for the victim.

Will Nicole get justice? The US government and the Arroyo administration have done all they can to deny her justice in a court of law. Perhaps only the court of public opinion and the triumph of the Filipino people’s struggle against foreign, imperialist domination will eventually vindicate her and many more like her. ###

*Published in Business World
27-28 October 06