Monday, March 30, 2009

Alternative Law Groups'S Statement on "Nicole's" Affidavit

The Alternative Law Groups, Inc. (ALG) asserts that the recently released sworn statement by Nicole fails to make a credible retraction of her testimony during the trial of the Subic rape case. ALG is a coalition of 20 legal-resource NGOs that work for justice system reforms in the Philippines.

Nicole's sworn statement should not bear any legal significance on the appeal of the conviction now pending with the Court of Appeals or on the issue of custody of convicted American soldier Daniel Smith. This latest development is especially relevant, however, as it clearly exemplifies how women victims of violence, as well as members of marginalized and vulnerable groups, have been at a disadvantaged position in the country’s justice system. What is particularly disturbing are the circumstances surrounding the affidavit’s execution. The preparation of the affidavit without the assistance--and without the knowledge--of Nicole’s counsel clearly established a lopsided situation with Nicole at the losing end. The affidavit glaringly presented the defense version.

The ALG has always pointed out the difficulties that are experienced by women victims of violence and members of marginalized groups in sustaining the prosecution or litigation of a case in court, caused, among others, by the lack of support systems for victims and complainants. This was reiterated in last year’s Forum on Increasing Access to Justice that was organized by the Supreme Court. In the Subic rape case, this problem took on a new and uglier twist as the government itself took the side of the accused, despite his conviction, and willingly, and even surreptitiously, relinquished custody over the convicted person to the United States authorities. With the trial court’s conviction of the accused, the successful prosecution of the Subic rape case was hailed as a triumph of our justice system. Subsequent developments would prove the reality that, in many cases, women victims of violence, and members of marginalized sectors, suffer further victimization as they seek remedy from the justice system. Read ALG's full statement.

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