Survivor `Nicole’ Recounts Her Ordeal
Women rape victims
could learn a lot from Nicole, the 22-year old Filipina who was allegedly
raped by U.S. soldiers last November 1. Nicole mustered enough courage to
tell her story in a packed courtroom last July 6 during her first court
testimony at the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 139.
JHONG DELA CRUZ
Dr. June Pagaduan-Lopez,
Nicole’s therapist, stressed that the media are crucial in telling the
victim’s side of the story. More importantly, the media can raise public
awareness of women’s rights, the plight of rape survivors and even the
effects of bilateral agreements like the US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)
Lopez revealed what
kept Nicole assured was the “unconditional support from her family” who
backed her struggle for justice.
“It was easy for her
to keep silent or just compromise, but she chose to fight. Her courage is
her contribution to the Philippine society,” Lopez said, adding that
Nicole’s testimony was also aimed at generating sympathy for all the
victims of sexual assault.
Lopez warned that
Nicole’s recollection of the sexual assault might cause her chronic
post-traumatic stress disorder, which is irreversible. This early, Nicole
is experiencing severe traumatic stress after appearing before a public to
testify and narrate in detail what transpired on the night of November 1.
Nicole, who tags
along her mother during court hearings, apparently still suffering from
severe stress the day before, did not show up last July 7 to continue her
testimony. Lawyer Evalyn Ursua of the Women’s Legal Bureau relayed to the
court that Nicole would like to take a rest.
Prosecutor Emily Fe delos Santos hoped that Nicole would regain composure
before July 10 to continue her testimony against the four U.S. soldiers.
Nicole burst into
tears five times during her nearly four-hour testimony on Thursday, where
she positively identified Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith as the one who raped
Smith was said to
have been cheered on by Lance Corporal Dominic Duplantis, Keith Silkwood
and Staff Sergeant Chad Carpentier during the sexual assault inside a
Lopez said that
crying helped Nicole maintain her composure while on the stand. She or
Nicole’s mother would immediately run to her side whenever she cried,
giving fighting words like, “Huwag [kang] pa-baby-baby dahil pagkatao [mo]
ang ipinaglalaban natin dito,” (Don’t be like a baby because your dignity
is what we are fighting for here.) or “Kaya mo yan nandito lang kami.”
(You can do it; we are just here.)
Lopez said that on
these occasions, Nicole felt betrayed as she was used to meeting and being
nice to U.S. soldiers back in their hometown in Zamboanga, where she
managed a family-owned canteen, only a stone’s throw away from a
detachment that housed the soldiers participating in the joint military
exercises last year.
The canteen served as
hangout for the soldiers, who during vacant hours would play cards with
Nicole and her siblings, or just chat with them. Two soldiers eventually
won their trust, Carlos Ocasio and Chris Mills of the U.S. Navy, who were
treated as members of the family. Brian Goodrich – a U.S. soldier with the
12th Marines Operations Platoon based in Okinawa, Japan – became her
Trip to Subic
Trusting them, Nicole
accepted an invitation from Ocasio and Mill to go to Subic in Zambales a
week before October 30, their travel date.
When they arrived in
Subic by plane, they did not stay long at Legenda Hotel and immediately
transferred to Grand Leisure Hotel, where they would be staying for three
For the next two days
and two nights, Nicole and stepsister Annaliza Franco, visited several
bars, casinos and duty-free shops. On Nov. 1, they went to San Roque
Chapel at noon to pray for her father, a Philippine Navy officer at the
time of his death in 1989.
Back at the hotel at
about 6:30 p.m., she and Annaliza met Mills who introduced them to a man
surnamed “Garcia,” said to be Mills’ liberty buddy. After eating pizza,
they proceeded to the casino and played until 8:20 p.m.
drinking at Neptune
Mills, Annaliza and
Nicole then proceeded to the Neptune bar. Between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m.,
after four rounds of orders, the three of them danced. While dancing, she
remembered her wrist being held by a foreigner, later identified as Smith,
who pulled her away from her two companions.
“Natakot ako. Hindi
ko siya kilala tapos bigla niya akong hinila,” she told the court. (I got
afraid. I did not know him but he immediately pulled me.)
She looked at Mills,
intending to ask if it was okay to dance with a stranger. Mills replied,
“It’s okay, go on. Enjoy.” He, however, reminded Smith to take care of
Their first encounter
lasted for about three to four songs, where Nicole asked Smith questions
like, the branch of service he belong to, how old he is and from state in
U.S. he lives in.
Nicole, feeling dizzy
at this time, was only able to recall the name “Gerard” or “Genard,” his
age, which is 20 and his branch of service which is Marines.
From there, now at
their table, Nicole recalled seeing two or three U.S. soldiers whom she
earlier met in Zamboanga. She said she felt “safe” upon seeing them.
After drinking Long
Island ice tea, she and Annaliza again danced. Feeling even dizzier, she
cannot recall why suddenly Smith was in front of her and Annaliza was
“Natatandaan ko na
nakaharap ako sa kanya, pinapatalikod niya ako pero everytime [na gawin
niya ito] humaharap ako,” Nicole said. (I remember I was in front of him.
He wanted me to turn my back on him but everytime he turns me around, I
would face him.)
After dancing, she
recalled being able to drink half a pitcher of Bullfrog. This time, he
noticed that three foreigners were facing her at the table.
Losing track of time,
she only remembered being asked to get out of the bar by Smith, saying it
was hot inside. She refused, saying she was waiting for her sister.
Smith was insistent,
grabbing her by the wrist. Given her already hazy memory, she remembered
seeing an identification card but failing to recall what was written on
The last thing she
knew, said Nicole, “May nakapatong na sa akin, nakahiga ako. Nararamdaman
ko ang weight niya. Hinahalikan niya ako.” (There was someone on top of
me, and I was lying down. I felt the weight of the person. The latter was
Asked in what
position she was in, she said, “Nakatihaya po,” (Lying face up) and who
was on top of her, “Si Smith po.” (It was Smith.)
The courtroom fell
silent at 4:10 p.m. while the young Filipina cried and sobbed for the
fifth time, prompting Judge Benjamin Pozon to adjourn for the day.
Dr. Lopez said that
somehow, Nicole has appreciated the attention her case has been getting
from the media. In turn, she is being educated by the circumstances her
ordeal had brought to the public.
Her family would
rather prefer a depoliticized treatment of the case, but this is
inevitable since pertinent provisions of the US-RP VFA are directly
related to the rape case. In particular, the prosecution is questioning
the provision in the VFA that limits the period wherein U.S. soldiers
could only be tried by a Philippine court to only one year.
In June, Ursua filed
a petition for certiorari seeking full custody of the four U.S. soldiers
involved in the rape case. If granted, this would prevent the soldiers
from getting off the hook as in the previous cases involving U.S.
soldiers, she noted. Bulatlat
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© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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