The release of Jalosjos, despite the two life terms, and the virtual release of Smith, despite the conviction, show the state of the justice system under the Arroyo government and the character of this administration
BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
Last week was a sad one not only for women’s rights advocates but also for those who stand for justice, sovereignty, and human rights.
First, Subic rape victim Nicole suddenly terminated the services of her lawyer, issued an affidavit raising doubts on her own account of the rape, and turned her back on the people fighting for justice for her and asserting the Filipino people’s sovereignty through campaigning for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the turnover to Philippine custody of convicted rapist Lance Corporal Daniel Smith of the US Marines.
No less than a lawyer could have written Nicole’s recent affidavit, which was masterfully crafted to influence the decision of the Court of Appeals on Smith’s appeal and lay the ground for his acquittal. Smith’s lawyers are insulting our intelligence by claiming that they merely notarized the affidavit, just like what any other notary public would do.
The issuance of Nicole’s recent affidavit could not have come at a better time: right after US Pres. Barack Obama called President Arroyo, who must have been jumping with joy that she finally caught Obama’s attention. The Arroyo government is denying that it had a hand in the affidavit and Nicole’s flight to the US. But the fact that it kept Nicole’s departure a secret, when certainly they knew about it as she had to pass immigration authorities, reveals a lot about the Arroyo government’s role.
Likewise, Nicole’s choice destination is also revealing. Perhaps to conceal its role in the issuance of Nicole’s recent affidavit, the US embassy claimed that it does not know where she went. Anybody familiar with the stringent processes in acquiring a US visa would know that the US embassy is not telling the truth.
Do they really think the Filipino people are so dumb?
We could not fault Nicole for her choice. The promise of a new life in the US must have been so tempting especially after having to confront the combined efforts of the most powerful nation, the US, and the most desperately servile government, the Arroyo government, in her quest for justice.
As if the twist in the Subic rape case is not enough trampling of our women’s and human rights, the Arroyo government chose to release former Zamboanga congressman and convicted rapist Romeo Jalosjos also last week. Jalosjos was sentenced to two life terms for raping an 11-year old girl in 1996. He was released only after 13 years in prison based on the commutation of his sentence by the Arroyo government in June 2007. His two-life term sentence was commuted to a mere 16-year jail term. Now, Jalosjos even has the temerity to declare that he would ask for a retrial to “clear his name”. He is so confident with his power and influence because he has the backing of the Arroyo government.
The struggle for justice for the 11-year old girl through the conviction of Jalosjos was an uphill battle, just like the Subic rape case. In both cases, progressive organizations, most especially the women’s group GABRIELA, had exerted efforts to get the public’s attention and concern to ensure that justice is attained. However, in the end, powerful interests prevailed.
The release of Jalosjos, despite the two life terms, and the virtual release of Smith, despite the conviction, show the state of the justice system under the Arroyo government and the character of this administration. The justice system, under Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez, is at its lowest point, is tainted by corruption and is being twisted to serve naked politics. Chief Justice Reynato Puno sticks out as the only rational voice not only in the current justice system but in the whole Arroyo government.
With these maneuverings, the Arroyo government has shown again its servility to the US and its propensity to dispense political favors, as well as bribes, to maintain itself in power. Not only is it allowing Smith and Jalosjos to get away with rape, it is pimping the nation’s sovereignty and raping the country’s political and justice system to maintain itself in power to be able to continue raiding the country’s coffers.
Important lessons could be drawn from the Subic and Jalosjos rape cases. First, there could be no justice under the current dispensation. Second, women’s rights would be trampled on with impunity for as long as an oppressive government is in power and an unjust system exists. (Bulatlat.com)