Here's the latest on "Nicole" from Rina Jimenez David:
IN AN EMOTIONAL meeting with reporters covering the trial, Nicole’s mother accused the prosecution team of “toying” with them. She observed how the relatively junior prosecutor Nolibien Quiambao did little more than reiterate certain points in the testimony of Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith during the “cross.” At one point, Judge Benjamin Pozon, who would certainly know more about courtroom procedures than the average observer, was even constrained to ask Quiambao: “Are you conducting a cross?”
At this point, recounts someone who was in the courtroom, “Nicole was in tears and (her mother) was very upset,” and both prevailed upon Nicole’s private lawyer Evalyn Ursua to approach the judge and request if she could ask further questions. This expectedly drew “protests and jeers” from the defense panel, but the lead prosecutor was of no help at all, showing by her body language that she was irked. She then requested a recess and agreed to pass on Ursua’s questions to Quiambao who, of course, botched those questions, too.
Two days later, when a defense state witness was scheduled to testify, the overwhelming forces ranged against Nicole seemed painfully obvious. The defense panel, which has tripled in number since the start of the trial, was present in full force, while there was only one prosecutor present, with even Ursua, who had indicated she would not be present because she wasn’t feeling well, absent.
It was at this point that Nicole and her mother, along with some supporters, decided to walk out of the courtroom and proceeded to the Department of Justice to submit a request to have the members of the prosecution panel, save for one, replaced. As Nicole told reporters in a press conference: “Napuno na kami.” (We’ve had it up to here.)
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PERHAPS it shouldn’t surprise us anymore that Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, looking as if he had swallowed a stale fish ball, told the media that not only was he “standing by” his prosecutors (a laudable stance, actually), he also doubted Nicole’s perception of things. “I hope she is not imagining again,” he remarked, implying that Nicole had also “imagined” the rape.
Actually, the perception that the government appears bent on winning acquittal for the four Marines stems not so much from the performance of the prosecutors assigned to the case as from the public utterances of our justice secretary.
Even before the case went to trial, Gonzalez had said he wanted the charges against three of the four accused to be downgraded, but that he felt constrained to include them in the rape charge to “appease the mob.” And as a report in this paper noted: “From the start, Gonzalez had expressed disbelief of Nicole’s claim of rape. At one point, he even told reporters that she might withdraw her complaint against the four US Marines.”
I am puzzled, for instance, at what observers report as the DOJ team’s “hostility” toward Ursua, who is lawyering for Nicole for free. The prosecutors have accused her of being “militant,” and of masterminding Nicole’s walk-out and complaint to the DOJ. But what’s wrong with being a “militant” lawyer, if it means adding commitment and understanding of feminist issues to the preparation of the case? The Supreme Court, after all, is even now promoting “gender fairness” in the training of judges and prosecutors.
But all these hurt feelings are nothing compared to what Nicole and her family must be feeling now. Nicole has opened the details of her life and her behavior to public scrutiny in a quest to win justice for herself—and for all other Filipino women. There is no clear “victory” for the rape survivor who goes public with her charges—the trauma and the scrutiny will continue well into the future. But it would be a national shame if defeat in the courtroom comes as a result not of a clear resolution of “guilt” or “innocence,” but of political accommodation.
I have no problems with "militant" lawyers, as long as they do a good job for their clients and have their trust, which I can't say for SiRAULo's prosecutors.