I’ve been to the Neptune Bar in Subic, where Smith and Nicole hooked up. It’s virtually indistinguishable from the relatively upscale, though still sleazy, videoke bars one finds scattered around Manila, Angeles or Olongapo. It caters to a mixed clientele of locals, tourists, expats and periodically, to hordes of U.S. servicemen on R & R. The Neptune is not a place where one expects to meet choirboys.
Nicole wandered in late that hot, fateful night after bar-hopping earlier with her sister and the latter’s boyfriend, an American serviceman. Smith and his posse were there and, by all accounts, he and Nicole hit it off. They promptly proceeded to get even more smashed. So drunk was Nicole that she left the bar on piggy-back, carried by Smith to the Marines’ hired van.
Things now get stickier. That Smith and Nicole has sex in van is an admitted fact. Smith says it was consensual. Nicole says she was forced into having sex with Smith, with the three other co-accused cheering their buddy on. But as the court ruled, Nicole was too inebriated to say yes.
After the rape, Nicole was unceremoniously dumped in the gutter, sans pants. There were a number of witnesses who saw this. I suspect it was this ultimate humiliation that did Smith and company in.
Under Philippine law, these circumstances would be enough to support a rape conviction.
But was justice served ? I, and a lot of others, are not so sure. At the risk of possible castration at the hands my feminist friends, I will hazard the opinion that justice may not have been blind in this case.
The case almost immediately deteriorated into a political and cultural brawl. It was the Ugly Americans against the Oppressed, but Unbowed, Filipinos. Imperialist brutes against the victimized natives. Us against them.
The people and groups around Nicole seemed to have a clear agenda: to make Nicole stand in for all the Filipino women who were abused and violated by generations of foreign invaders, from the Spaniards, to the Japanese and, most visibly, the Americans. Hence, the insistence on anonymity, ostensibly to protect the victim’s identity, although Nicole has not been shy about giving statements to the media. Nicole’s cause was well-organized and, apparently, well-funded. It helped that the victim in this case was not a hapless, ignorant bar girl but a college-educated, middle-class maiden from a far province. It was easy to drum up support for Nicole.
Not surprisingly, the Americans were portrayed as callous barbarians. They brought it upon themselves. Their indifference to the sensibilities of other peoples and cultures were in full display. Typically, these cowboys behaved as if they still owned the Philippines. Damage control and P.R. attempts by the American camp were clumsy and ill-timed. It was easy to demonize Smith et. al.
But public opinion is not sufficient basis to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
At times, it appeared that the accused were persecuted rather than prosecuted.