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Rape Accuser of U.S. Marine Recants, Critics See a Plot

New America Media, Commentary, Rene P. Ciria-Cruz Posted: Mar 20, 2009

A Filipina who accused a U.S. Marine of raping her two years ago, sparking a huge national outcry, has recanted her story. Her announcement has created shockwaves throughout the country, fueled by President Barack Obamas recent phone call to Philippines President Gloria Arroyo.

Suzette Nicolas, known as Nicole, submitted a sworn statement to an appeals court on March 17, recanting her accusation of rape against U.S. Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith. He was convicted in December 2006 and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

The womans shocked and disappointed supporters say they smell a plot to vindicate and release the convicted serviceman in order to remove the persisting cloud of controversy over a military agreement between the two countries.

Critics say Obamas first official phone call to Arroyo he also phoned the Indonesian president and Saudi Arabias king in what presumably were courtesy calls -- thickens the plot: Obamas call came just a few days before the woman recanted.

The case sparked popular outrage against U.S. military presence in the Philippines, particularly the Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows American armed forces to hold military exercises in the archipelago.

Within days of Smiths sentencing in December 2006, he was transferred from a local jail to the U.S. Embassy where he continues to stay. The issue of where he should be held heated up as the Philippine Supreme Court ruled he should be held in a national facility until his appeal winded its way through the courts.

The U.S. Embassy has ignored the high courts order, further fueling nationalist fervor and triggering calls for the abrogation of the armed forces agreement.

In her affidavit, Nicolas says her conscience bothered her because she might have welcomed Smiths sexual advances at a nightclub at Subic Bay Freeport Zone on the night the reported rape took place.

But adding fuel to the speculation of a plot, Nicolas also stated she received a payment of 100,000 Philippine pesos (about $2,000 USD) from Smith and was releasing him from any claims of compensatory damages. Nicolas reportedly has left for the United States to join her American boyfriend.

Nicolas former lawyer Evalyn Ursua said she wasnt aware of Nicolas' plan and that the law office that defended Smith also prepared and filed Nicolas sworn statement. This is highly unethical, the lawyer told reporters in Manila.

The Philippine government denies accusations that it arranged Nicolas change of heart. A spokesman expressed disappointment at the turn of events, because the case divided the nation now apparently for naught.

Some of Nicolas supporters said she and her family simply got tired of the controversy and of waiting for justice. Others, however, insist that a more sinister explanation is behind her about face.

Skeptics doubt that the domestically preoccupied Obama administration would be willing to carry out an elaborate plot to disrupt a criminal case in the Philippines just to protect the Visiting Forces Agreement.

But radical elements in the country are still convinced that nothing major happens under the puppet state without the imprimatur of U.S. imperialism.

Even milder nationalists tend to believe the Philippine and U.S. governments plotted the whole thing because both are heavily invested in the continuation of this treaty.

Undeniably, the virtually ongoing military exercises on the islands serve American force projection in Southeast Asia, especially after the U.S. military bases in the Philippines were closed in 1992.

Near-constant U.S. military exercises are also viewed as a moving platform for operating against Islamist terrorists in the southern Philippines and in Indonesia.

Related Articles:

To Obama, Philippines No Longer a Key U.S. Ally

Filipina Accuses U.S. Soldier of Rape

Rape Conviction Revives U.S.-Philippine Tension

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