Oral argument on Subic rapist’s detention at SC Sept. 19

Nicole’s lawyer worried about corruption in CA

By Veronica Uy
First Posted 14:52:00 09/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court will be hearing the oral argument on a case on the transfer and detention of convicted rapist Daniel Smith on September 19, the lawyer of the American Marine’s victim said.

At the same time, Evalyn Ursua, the lawyer of the victim known publicly only as Nicole, acknowledged being worried about the unfolding bribery scandal at the Court of Appeals, where Smith’s appeal of his conviction for the November 1, 2005 rape at the Subic Bay Freeport is pending.

Ursua said the high court will hear the motion they filed to cite the government in contempt for whisking Smith out of the Makati City jail in December 2006, even before a court could decide on the issue, and transferring him to the American embassy in Manila, where he continues to be detained.

But Smith’s lawyer, Jose Justiniano, said the rape convict is not a party to the Supreme Court case, which is between Ursua and the Office of the Solicitor General. “We are a minor party there, if not a simple observer,” he said.

Ursua said the continuing bribery scandal at the Court of Appeals worried them because the alleged pressure the executive branch of government allegedly brings to bear on appellate judges is “common knowledge.”

“We are worried that, because of the Meralco case, it is not unlikely that it could happen here, given the interest in this case, which involves the United States and the Visiting Forces Agreement,” she said.

Ursua was referring to the petition filed by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) against a cease and desist order (CDO) handed down by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the election of the power firm’s board earlier this year.

The CDO had been sought by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) as part of a bid to wrest control of Meralco.

The case has seen appellate justices accusing each other of corruption amid allegations of bribe offers from either Meralco or the government and even personal calls from government officials asking for a decision in favor of GSIS.

The Supreme Court created a panel of retired justices who investigated the allegations and are expected to release its findings soon.

“We are worried. We can only do our work, the rest is up to the process and the justices,” Ursua said even as she pointed out that the issue of Smith’s conviction and detention has gone beyond what he did to Nicole.

“To many people, Nicole is just collateral damage. In the context of Mindanao, where there is focus on the presence of US troops, the stakes have become higher,” she said.

Ursua recalled that Nicole testified that American troops have some form of base in the Zamboanga military camp where her mother ran a canteen.

“Remember, she talked in the beginning of her testimony about the US camp, about how they have always been there. That’s why it’s part of her life seeing American soldiers. They’re not just visiting,” she said.

Justiniano and Ursua both said that all pleadings have been submitted to the Court of Appeals since October last year. They said they are only awaiting the decision, which could either affirm the guilty conviction or reverse it.


My Take:

The way the SC handled the CA controversy, and the kind of sentence they awarded to the guilty justices, Nicole’s camp has every right to be suspicious of whatever decision they’ get from the CA, specially if its against their crusade.

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