Thursday, March 19, 2009

Eh-hum # 276


So, it has come to pass: Nicole, or Suzette S. Nicolas in real life, recanted her claims in 2005 that a US serviceman raped her. She submitted an affidavit yesterday and has terminated the services of her lawyer. In addition, Nicole accepted money from the said servicemen and has left for the United States with her American boyfriend. According to her mother, she will be staying in the US for good. In short, Nicole chose to move on.

When this sudden “change of heart” on Nicole’s part was published in the national dailies, I expected every Filipino, or anyone who cares, would give his or her two cents worth on the incident. After all, Smith was found guilty by the Makati City Court using evidence that does not suggest consensual sex. So why leave the country? Those who sympathize with her will say the Philippine justice system has failed her; hence, she would rather get the money and the opportunity to leave the country and start a new life. Unfortunately for Nicole, there are people who are not very kind and have already judged her from the very beginning.

Her decision to submit her affidavit and leave the case, she will be labeled as any or a combination of the following: a liar, an opportunist, a whore. Back in 2005, people have raised questions about Nicole’s profession in Subic, her priorities and her decision to accompany Smith’s group that fateful night. If she was indeed raped, it was because she deserved it. Moreover, given her questionable lifestyle, should we expect anything less? I admit; I have my doubts at the beginning. I believed that when we make choices, we should also be prepared for the consequences. That night, as an adult, Nicole made her choice, and therefore should know what’s coming next. However, I also learned that a woman (a child, even a man), no matter how shady her profession is or desperate the situation she is in, does not deserve to be physically, sexually or emotionally abused.

In yesterday’s Philippine Daily Inquirer, this snippet from her sworn statement struck me: “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 don’t know if this makes sense, but in my opinion, being friendly or intimate should never be confused with wanting to have sex. She will decide if she wants to sleep with someone or not. No actually means no.

We will never truly know if she was indeed a victim of sexual assault. The courts said she was, but her affidavit could challenge the earlier conviction. Nonetheless, she was, as one PDI columnist pointed out, a victim of circumstance. Apart from the slow justice system we have, were people who rallied behind her really and genuinely concerned about her cause, or did they just used her for their own anti-VFA sentiments? Would Nicole be liable for perjury and false testimony in court? How will this affect the other cases of rape in the country? Even though she has left for the US, Nicole has not entirely left the issue behind.

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