The conviction of US Marine Daniel Smith in the notorious Subic rape case shows insight into the evolution of the law here, and of the complicated politics surrounding the US Philippine relationship.

First of all, the “rape” was not a stranger rape, but what is often called “date rape” in the USA. The victim “Nicole” was dancing and drinking with four US Marines at a bar in Subic, went out with them to the van, and had sex with him while his friends were in the van. No one noticed anything wrong, and they later dropped her off back home to sleep it off.

The court case originally was not only a rape charge against Smith, but for good measure, the friends were arrested for conspiracy.

Lawyer and writer Rowena Guanzon points out that according to law, “Nicole” gave consent, and she was not unconscious, so it was not rape. Indeed, a similar 1997 case confirmed intoxication was not incapacity under the law. But Judge Poson, using the more modern feminist critique of the law, declared that since she was “drunk” at the time, and Smith knew she was drunk, it was rape. So when Judge Poson declared it was rape, he was making a landmark decision in favor of women’s rights here in the Philippines. It is not only in the US where activist judges legislate new laws.

The entire story of “Nicole” is complicated even further because she placed her complaints with the backing of left wing activists who opposed American troops training in the Philippines . They were outside the courtroom en mass, ready to protest what they thought would be a dismissal of the case.

Whatever the facts of the case, the spin was more about the presence of US troops than complaints by feminists to protect the rights of women.

The result is that Smith received 40 years in jail, and there is a feud between the governments to settle if he goes to jail in the US or in Philippine jails.

As a feminist, I am happy the law now protects drunken women. But I’m old enough to remember when Catholic girls were taught to “avoid near occasions of sin”…and drinking and dancing with lonely young men at a bar in an area famous for it’s generous ladies is about as near occasion of sin that I can think of.

And, of course, the Smith case will ruin the business of hundreds of generous women whose customers, after having a few drinks with her, may decide not to risk jail for having sex while tipsy.
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines with her husband and extended family. Her web page is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket .

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