Around 200 women from various parts of Luzon, including Baguio, Angeles City and Metro Manila are marching today to the Olongapo Hall of Justice to support the 22-year old victim of rape, as the preliminary investigation of the rape complaint filed against 6 US servicemen opens today.
Led by the Coalition against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), Bukluran ng Kababaihan sa Olongapo (Buklod), EBGAN, WomenLead, Bagong Kamalayan, Samaritana, WomanHealth, Sinag Kababaihan, Batis Aware, WELGA, Women’s Crisis Center, PKKK, Women Rage and Kakammpi, the organizations called for the hasty resolution of the case for immediate trial.
In a statement, the group also condemned the refusal of the Department of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales to transfer the preliminary investigation (PI) of the case to the Manila office. The presence of the group in the PI, they hope, will put pressure on the local prosecutor to find probable cause in the rape complaint and recommend filing of charges.
“We are astounded by Sec. Gonzales’ statements that he sees no need for addressing the issue of custody, and that transfer of custody to the Philippines will cost the government a lot,” says Jean Enriquez, Deputy Director of CATW-AP. “This is the height of indifference to gross violation of women’s human rights. Although we are pretty aware that the Arroyo government, as insinuated by the President’s call to Gonzales, is conscious of belittling the issue and doing its utmost so as not to strain its ties with the big white brother.”
Enriquez added, “Gonzales might be acting ignorant of the implication of leaving the custody of the accused with the US Embassy, and yet he might actually be, but we also know how much this has become a dangerous issue for President Arroyo herself.” The group asserted the request for custody should be done immediately, despite the default already made by the DOJ, since the rape case, if to proceed to trial, is not likely to be decided upon within one year, which is the time frame set by the Visiting Forces Agreement.
The group also denounced the VFA, as an essentially anti-Filipino treaty, laying the ground for American soldiers to access “our land, women and children, and for inherent inequities within.”