Hiding Her Identity, But Not Her Story
“Vanessa” maybe hiding behind her long-sleeved white blouse, lavander veil and huge sunglasses when she appeared in a press conference inside the Gabriela headquarters in Quezon City.
She is 22 years old, a college student and at one point in her life went to a bar in Makati City and met an American. That’s all we know about her personal life so far.
She may be hiding her identity from the prying eyes and the judgmental minds of the public. But she is not hiding her story.
On April 10, “Vanessa” said she met a foreigner who introduced himself as a US Marine in a bar at The Fort in Makati City.
After several days and a few text messages, she went with the American on April 18 to his hotel room also in Makati City.
But upon entering the room, she said she noticed some things apparently belonging to a woman which she thought belonged to his girlfriend. So as not to complicate the situation, “Vanessa” told him she wanted to leave.
“Vanessa” said the American got mad and pushed her. He slapped her on her face. Then he kissed her on her lips and her chest. And then, he was able to rape her.
“Ipinasok po niya ang ari niya sa akin. Pinapalo ko po siya at sinasagga,” said “Vanessa” in her prepared affidavit read before the media.
“Vanessa” is now under the custody of women’s group Gabriela and is being assisted by lawyers including Atty. Evalyn Ursua, the lawyer of “Nicole” in the 2006 Subic rape case also involving an American.
Gabriela and Ursua are convinced that “Vanessa” was raped. But the victim has consitently said that she is not filing a case against the American because of what happened in the Subic rape case where accused Daniel Smith was acquitted by the Court of Appeals for raping “Nicole.”
“Meron kaming affidavit, medico-legal documents, litrato ng suspect, kumpleto sa evidence but since ayaw ng biktima magsampa ng kaso, nire-respeto namin yan,” said Ursua.
For the protection of the victim, Gabriela and Ursua say they will be hiding the identity of the American because he might retaliate and reaveal the identity of "Vanessa." Although they say they have confirmed that the American is with JUSMAG or the Joint United States Military Assistance Group. In the affidavit of “Vanessa,” the American was referred to as “John Jones.”
Gabriela has once again called for the junking of the Visiting Forces Agreement, the primary reason why American soldiers assigned to the Balikatan exercises are perpetually on Philippine soil.
“After their Balikatan exercises, they are having their rest and recreation at the expense of violating Filipina women,” said Emmi De Jesus, Secretary-General of Gabriela.
The United States embassy in Manila released a short statement hours after “Vanessa” surfaced. “The U.S. takes seriously specific allegations regarding activities by visiting U.S. personnel,” said Karen Schinnerer, Deputy Press Officer.
But will the embassy initiate their own investigation? What exactly do they mean by “taking seriously”?
No one knows if “Vanessa” will be another “Nicole”.
Will a “Makati rape case” follow the highly publicized Subic rape case?
But as of now, maybe this should be a wake-up call for American soldiers, or any foreigner for that matter to treat Filipinas with utmost respect. I am not concluding that all American servicemen here in the Philippines are on a prowl for Filipinas inside bars and discos. It’s just that maybe they should be extra careful in dating Filipinas. Well, it is actually a universal rule, whether you are Filipino, American or any other nationality, in any other country.
And on the other hand, maybe Filipinas should also be careful when going out with American servicemen. I have heard comments that “Vanessa” was a willing victim. We all know what is likely to happen when a woman goes to a hotel room with a man she barely knew. Some also say that seeing things apparently belonging to the American’s girlfriend was a lame excuse.
Yes, “Vanessa” may have been thinking of having sex with “John Jones” that night. But that doesn’t give him the license to force her into sex after she realized that it was wrong for her to be there.
Now, in the meantime, we in the media, Gabriela and Atty. Ursua have no choice but to wait for “Vanessa.” If and when she decided to bring her case to court, I just hope we as a nation have not gotten tired of fighting for what is right.