Fil-Am Women Urge Obama to Revoke Support for VFA and Pledge to Prevent a Thousand “Nicoles”

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow/

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

20 March 2009

Reference: Joanne Alcantara, GABRIELA-USA, National Coordinator (206)
859-7525, email gabrielawomen@gmail.com

*Filipino-American Women Urge Obama to Revoke Support for Visiting Forces
Agreement and Pledge to Prevent a Thousand “Nicoles” *

United States–Filipino American women urge President Obama to look
thoroughly into the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) as it clearly justifies
violence against Filipino women at the hands of US military service and at
the expense of US tax payer dollars. The long standing notoriety of abuses
against Filipino women through direct military prostitution and trafficking
have been legitimated by policies such as the VFA.

Three years have passed since the sexual assault on “Nicole”, and Daniel
Smith, although convicted in 2006 for rape and sentenced to 40 years, has
not served a day of sentence in a Filipino jail. Through the Visiting
Forces Agreement, the U.S. insists that he should stay in U.S. custody
despite a Philippine Supreme Court decision that he should be under
Philippine custody.

Filipino-American women expressed disappointment with reports this week of
Obama’s phone call to Philippine President Arroyo expressing his support for
the Bush-era Visiting Forces Agreement, amidst heightened public opinion for
abrogating the VFA. Members of GABRIELA-USA, BABAE, Pinay sa Seattle, and
Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FIRE), criticized Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo for failing to negotiate with Obama over the rightful
transfer of the convicted rapist Lance Corporal Daniel Smith from U.S. to
Philippine custody. “Arroyo has proven once again that she cares not for the
sovereignty of our nation and the dignity of our people, especially for the
justice of a Filipino woman dragged dragged through the contradictions in
the VFA,” says Marisa Mariano, Chairwoman of Babae in San Francisco.

Even more disturbing is that days after Obama and Arroyo’s phone
conversation pledging mutual support for VFA, a flurry of news reports
stated that Nicole has agreed to a monetary settlement with Smith and have
already left for a new life in the U.S. Her lawyer said that, “Nicole was
tired of the case,” and her family did not want to be bothered by it anymore
because they said, “there is no justice in the Philippines.” Smith and the
Court of Appeals made a settlement of 100,000 Pesos ($2,000 USD) for
compensatory damages to Nicole. This meager settlement exposes the clear
lack of justice signed into the VFA and the gross inability of the Arroyo
government to stand firm in defense of its people.

Many outraged Filipinos are convinced that the settlement was a move by the
U.S. and Arroyo governments to try to hush the case and save the VFA. This
is occurring while thousands of Filipinos have clamored to scrap the
agreement, which has not even been ratified by the U.S. Senate or the
Philippine Congress.

“As advocates for rape survivors and other victims of abuse, we know full
well the societal tendencies to blame the victim or even for the victim to
blame themselves after undergoing trauma. It is so sad and disheartening
that despite all the things Nicole has gone through, she continues to be
victimized and used as a scapegoat to preserve U.S. military interventionism
in the Philippines,” says Valerie Francisco, chairwoman of Filipinas for
Rights and Empowerment in New York City. “But we know that Nicole is not
the first, nor is she the last to be victimized by the VFA. The growing
movement to scrap the VFA is to prevent a thousand Nicoles,” added Valerie
Francisco.

GABRIELA-USA, along with thousands of others in the Philippines, insist that
President Obama investigates the implications of the VFA for the people most
affected by its stipulations. We will continue to bring light to the stories
of thousands of Filipino women who historically and to the present suffer
the abuses of militarization. And we pledge to work towards preventing a
thousand more Nicoles.

To help JUNK the VFA, and make sure that no Filipina must go through the
same as Nicole, please sign: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow/.

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This entry was posted in Gabriela, Philippines, United States, Women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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