The Long View
Victim of circumstance
HER affidavit caused a sensation. Even without paying heed to Evalyn Ursua’s allegation that the notary public before whom the affidavit was formalized belonged to the opposing party’s law firm, anyone reading the affidavit signed by “Nicole” can see how it serves Daniel Smith’s legal purposes. And so the best that can be said concerning the affidavit’s first nine points is that they bring up the very reasons lawyers say the courts tend to discount secondary affidavits like this one – it brings up too many questions, raises too many possibilities concerning motives, all of which serve to actually strengthen the value of actual testimony given under oath in open court.
But there are two portions of the affidavit that struck me as possibly highly revealing about Nicole’s true feelings both before and after her rape case made her a household name.
The first is the last sentence of item 10 in her affidavit: “When people gathered around me at the seawall, everyone seemed to have drawn the conclusion that I was raped except for one who called me a bitch.”
The second is point 11: “Based on the account of SBMA police, I was very hesitant to board the mobile police car that brought me to the headquarters for investigation. I was so confused and the first thing that entered my mind was how would my mother and boyfriend react if they learn that I was last seen with Daniel Smith and that a condom was seen on my pants after Daniel Smith left the van? I was scared of losing not only my American boyfriend but the chance of living in the United States. In fact, I did not immediately tell my boyfriend that I was raped by Daniel Smith. All I said was that something bad happened to me.”
The first points to a process that began the moment those American servicemen kicked her out of the van. Her countrymen immediately began passing judgment upon her, and the verdict would only be that she had been victimized, or that she was a floozy. Neither verdict left her with the option of salvaging her self-respect, because both verdicts opened her up to essentially the kind of malicious scrutiny that had always been there, and of which she was surely aware, but had previously preferred to shrug off. While many women surely shared her enthusiasms, and many young people displayed similarly reckless abandon in seeking companionship and fun, any misadventures get turned into a morality tale.
Filipinos of an older generation used to warn their daughters of the dangers of being too enthralled by GI’s, saying “Hanggang pier ka na lang.” Behind that statement surely lies many other Nicoles, abandoned under circumstances ranging from the truly heart-breaking to the utterly degrading. But always, the essential assumption is there: not only of the uncouth, predatory foreign male, but the gullible, weak, or worse, mercenary Filipina; and always, the elders of both sexes prepared to respond to any eventuality with â€œI warned you, but you wouldn’t listen;”
Which is exactly what her story became: a morality tale, but one deprived of a victim who, by the standards of her community, both local and national, could be considered truly innocent. From the very start, the question of whether she was raped got bogged down in public opinion being divided on whether her behavior prior to, and during, her encounter with Smith was relevant, or not. Never mind if legally and even morally, her behavior was irrelevant to determining if there had been the crime of rape or not.
Shunted aside was the event that, up to now, with or without her recantation, and whatever the reasoning of Smith or his lawyers, has stood up as genuinely true, and therefore, unquestionably a fact: she was thrown out of a van, disheveled and undressed, and with a condom providing undeniable proof of coitus having taken place, under consensual circumstances or not. This fact alone should have led to a general hue and cry condemning the servicemen and to a dressing-down of the American commander by Filipino officials.
The tragedy is that she had to bow to a public that only offered her the option of being a victimized whore, the publicity of the case meaning that her family could no longer shrug off as innuendo the dark mutterings of those who’d been passing judgment on her all along. More to the point, her American boyfriend (and all future servicemen she’d encounter) might consider her permanently damaged goods.
We know the choice she made: to fight. We know her cause was taken up by many, even as many others viewed her cause with hostility. What we now know is that the ultimate cause of her lawyer and many who rallied around her – severing ties with the United States, consigning the RP-US alliance to the dustbin of history – was not her cause, and that furthermore that cause does not seem to have impressed either her or her family, much as they went along with the rhetoric in the beginning.
I’ve heard it argued that we, as a people, are less concerned with actual morality and are obsessed, instead, with saving face. What if Nicole’s real concern was to somehow save face, if only partially? Or what if justice for her was not in what transpired in her coital encounter with Smith, but with how it ended? There is no crime called dumping a naked person out of a van, no means of seeking compensation for the public seeing you treated as a LBFM (Little Brown Fucking Machine), as one American website refers to Filipinas. The only assurance of a semblance of recovering her dignity, never mind justice, may have been to claim rape.
The other possibility, indeed, what the justice system has concluded, is that rape took place, but to her, the crime was always about the perpetrator and not the country he served, and where she’s finally gone to live.