Sep 282014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/03/09MANILA631.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA631
2009-03-20 09:41
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 200941Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3606
INFO RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA IMMEDIATE 0139
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000631

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/20/2019
TAGS: PREL MARR KCRM CASC RP
SUBJECT: EMBASSY PRESSES MARINE CASE AT HIGHEST LEVELS

REF: MANILA 610 AND PREVIOUS

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney for reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY. The public about-face by the accuser in the
rape case against Marine Lance Corporal Daniel J. Smith has
created a public furor. The sworn affidavit by Smith’s
accuser, Suzette Nicolas, raising doubts whether any rape
took place in November 2005, has caused the Philippine public
to question whether the judicial process was fair to LCpl
Smith, who was convicted in December 2006. Ambassador met
with key officials in the Philippine government, including
the Presidential Executive Secretary and the Interior
Secretary, to impress upon them that Nicole’s affidavit has
transformed the very nature of discussions about LCpl Smith
and it is incumbent upon the Philippine government to live up
to its constitutionally mandated timelines for deciding
cases. The Philippine officials acknowledged that the
Philippine government has an obligation — and an opportunity
— to quickly resolve this issue. END SUMMARY.

DELIVERING A TOUGH MESSAGE
————————–

¶2. (C) In frank and candid meetings with Presidential
Executive Secretary Ermita March 19, and Interior Secretary
Ronaldo Puno March 20, the Ambassador stressed the importance
of moving with alacrity to resolve the case of U.S. Marine
Lance Corporal Daniel J. Smith, whose appeal of a rape
conviction in December 2006 has been pending in the Court of
Appeals since October 2007 (reftel). Ambassador underscored
that sentiment among U.S. Government and military officials
had been transformed by Nicole’s sworn statement to the Court
of Appeals raising serious questions about whether the crime
actually took place. Ambassador observed that the very
foundation of the conviction — that Smith committed the
crime beyond a reasonable doubt — had now been upended by
Nicole’s sworn statement that she entertained “doubts on
whether the sequence of events … really occurred the way
the court found them to have happened.”

¶3. (C) Noting that Smith’s appeal had been pending in the
Court of Appeals since October 2007, Ambassador pointed out
that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) requires that all
U.S. personnel entering the Philippines pursuant to it must
be accorded “all procedural safeguards established by the law
of the Philippines,” including “at the minimum . . . a prompt
and speedy trial.” The Ambassador noted that the Philippine
constitution provides that cases in the Court of Appeals must
be decided or resolved within 12 months, while Smith’s case
has been pending for 17. Both Ermita and Puno assured
Ambassador that the Government understood the implications of
Nicole’s sworn statement and were carefully — and quickly —
assessing the government’s next steps.

PUSHING ON A BROAD DIPLOMATIC FRONT
———————————–

¶4. (C) Other Mission officials have been delivering similar
messages to a broad spectrum of the Philippine government.
In advance of the Ambassador’s upcoming meeting with Foreign
Secretary Alberto Romulo, who is currently out of the
country, Polcouns met with Department of Foreign Affairs
Assistant Secretary Lori Yparraguirre to apprise her of the
shift in expectations in Washington as a result of Nicole’s
sworn statement. Other Mission officials met with Solicitor
General Agnes Devanadera, who is prosecuting the case at the
Court of Appeals, and with Interior Undersecretary Marius
Corpus, designated by the Philippine government as the key
interlocutor on Smith’s custody.

PRESIDENTIAL DAMAGE CONTROL
—————————

¶5. (C) Meanwhile, Malacanang continued its efforts to debunk
speculation linking Nicole’s sworn statement and the phone
conversation between President Obama and President Arroyo, as
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde pointed out that Nicole’s
affidavit was signed March 12, while the presidential
conversation took place March 14. For his part, Deputy
Presidential Spokesman Anthony Golez urged against
“emotionalism” on the issue, reiterating that Nicole had
every right to proceed as she had.

PHILIPPINE SENTIMENT SHIFTING?
——————————

¶6. (C) Media commentary has begun to coalesce around the

MANILA 00000631 002 OF 002

notion that Nicole’s “recantation” — as the press has taken
to calling Nicole’s statement — buttressed Smith’s defense
that the sexual encounter was consensual, and emboldened more
Filipinos to give Smith the benefit of the doubt. Philippine
Daily Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo went as far as saying
that “Nicole was never raped and our skewed justice system
sent an innocent American to jail.” Another Inquirer
columnist, Amando Doronila, said that Nicole,s departure
“paved the way for the dropping of the rape case, doused cold
water on the custody issue, and undermined calls for the
review or abrogation of the VFA.” Congresswoman Mitos
Magsaysay, the first person who spoke with Nicole after the
incident, noted that Nicole’s latest affidavit “hews more
closely” to what Nicole and other witnesses stated then. “I
concluded then that there was no rape. There were obviously
some people who took over and influenced her,” Magsaysay
said. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Antonio
Cuenco noted that Smith’s appeal had been pending for years
and urged the Court of Appeals to expedite action on the
case. Still others, while expressing dismay over Nicole’s
decision, wished her well in her new life nonetheless.

PREPARING FOR MAJOR DEMONSTRATION
———————————

¶7. (C) As part of the continued anger directed by various
fringe groups against the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and
the custody issue of LCpl Smith, the Embassy is preparing for
a planned demonstration near the Embassy March 21.
Spearheaded by various leftist groups, the demonstration is
intended to mark the sixth anniversary of the U.S.-led
invasion of Iraq. The demonstration is expected to include
about 500 activists and several anti-administration
politicians who oppose the VFA and the upcoming bilateral
military exercises. The Ambassador raised the planned
demonstration with DILG Secretary Puno, who assured her that
Philippine law enforcement officials would strengthen their
efforts to ensure Mission operations continue to function
unimpeded.

COMMENT
——-

¶8. (C) While public opinion seems to be shifting toward LCpl
Smith, moving the Court of Appeals to a favorable decision
may yet present serious problems. As a separate branch of
government, the courts are jealous of their independence, and
many justices seem to harbor political aspirations.
Furthermore, left to its own devices, the court system tends
to move at glacial speed. The challenge remains in
persuading Administration officials to pressure the Court of
Appeals into a speedy resolution of the case or
alternatively, getting the Administration to take action
itself, a move that is bound to have a price politically.
KENNEY

   

 

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