Friday, May 22, 2009

It is the Country that Owes Vanessa

Quezon City, May 20, 2009 – “Instead of hounding Vanessa that she owes the country it is the country that owes Vanessa. The country owes rape victims the proper judgments where they are believed for their rape complaints. A rape victim should be given credence when she says, ‘No, I did not consent to the sexual act,’” said Atty. Clara Rita A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.

“The actors in our judicial system are the ones who owe rape victims the justice they seek. If there is proper prosecution, investigation, and the perpetrators are convicted and punished, then that is justice,” added Atty. Padilla.

Atty. Padilla continued, “The rape acquittals constitute a failure of the Philippine government to comply with its obligation of due diligence in addressing violence against women (VAW). The Philippines is mandated to ‘refrain from engaging in VAW, to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, punish acts of VAW and to provide access to just and effective remedies including medical assistance to victims; to take appropriate and effective action whether those acts are perpetrated by the State, by private persons or by armed groups or warring factions.”1

Atty. Padilla continued, “Convictions of rapists prevent other rapes from happening. These convictions will send a strong message that rape cannot happen with impunity. This is what the country owes rape victims. No less.”

“It is also through effective prosecution and proper punishment of rapists that we can encourage rape victims to come out, file their cases, and get vindication of their rights,” added Atty. Padilla.

“Our justice system must put a stop to impunity of rapists. Our media and the common tao must simply stop blaming victims of rape. The perpetrators of rape are the ones at fault, no one else,” Atty. Padilla stressed.

“Let us also be mindful that there would not have been a Vanessa and Nicole if there was no Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The VFA should never have been ratified not only for being lopsided and defying our sovereignty but for bringing militarism which, we are all aware, brings human rights abuses including rape into our country. There mustn’t be any more Nicole and Vanessa. The time to abrogate VFA is now,” Atty. Padilla concluded.


1. Extension of mandate of U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women (UNSRVAW) by the Commission on Human Rights in 2003, 59th sess., Res. 2003/45.

Women’s NGOs Cries Justice for Rebelyn Pitao

Quezon City, March 10, 2009 – The torture, possible rape, and killing of Rebelyn Pitao, a 20-year old civilian teacher and daughter of an NPA commander, is evidence of the continuous human rights violations that is happening under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration. “The abduction of Rebelyn on March 4 and later her body found dead on March 5 at the time when women should be celebrating women’s gains and solidarity for their causes this Women’s Month is indeed a slap in the face of all Filipino women,” said Atty. Clara Rita A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.

Atty. Padilla added, “All the perpetrators of this gruesome violence against women, the four armed men and those who issued the orders, must face accountability and be immediately dismissed from service after a thorough investigation and hearing. Under the doctrine of due diligence, the Philippine government has the ‘duty to prevent, investigate and punish international law violations and pay just compensation.’”

“The Philippine government is directly responsible for the acts of the perpetrators under the international law of State responsibility,” continued Atty. Padilla. The Articles on State Responsibility adopted by the International Law Commission and subsequently noted by the UN General Assembly. Article 4 of the Articles provides:

Article 4. Conduct of Organs of a State
a) The conduct of any State organ shall be considered an act of that State under international law, whether the organ exercises legislative, executive, judicial or any other functions, whatever position it holds in the organization of the State, and whatever its character as an organ of the central Government or of a territorial unit of the State.

b) An organ includes any person or entity which has that status in accordance with the internal law of the State.

Atty. Padilla stressed, “Thus, actions of the operatives that are inconsistent with the Philippines’ international human rights obligations amount to a failure by the State to fulfill its human rights obligations. Having ratified the Conventions on Women, Torture, and Civil and Political Rights, the Philippine government must put a stop to these human rights violations.”

Inaction against the perpetrators and the continuing failure of the judiciary to actively prosecute the perpetrators provide evidence of the failure of the State to fulfill its human rights obligations and the complete lack of will to address the human rights violations.

Nicole is a Victim; Her Supposed Recantation Shouldn’t be Given Weight

Quezon City, March 18, 2009 – “Nicole has been a victim. She was a victim of the ills brought forth by the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). She was raped by a U.S. military personnel. She has been victimized by those who didn’t believe her complaint for rape. She has been victimized by a government that refuses to assert its sovereignty by allowing Daniel Smith to be detained in the U.S. embassy. And now she is being blamed for succumbing to pressure,” said Atty. Clara Rita A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.

Atty. Padilla added, “As a private prosecutor of violence against women cases, I’d like to say that we should respect Nicole’s decision. The pressure must really have been too much for her.”

“If those who drafted the supposed recantation thought they were successful in raising doubts, they are mistaken because the supposed recantation failed miserably in doing so. On the other hand, it even strengthened Nicole’s lack of consent to the sexual act,” Atty. Padilla added. She stressed though that, “It is also important to mention that the Philippine Supreme Court has decided in a long line of cases that recantation of a witness should not be given weight. It has also been decided by the Supreme Court that the findings of fact of a lower court, the regional trial court in this case, bears a lot of weight. Thus, the conviction of Smith should be upheld by the appellate court.”

Atty. Padilla continued, “The timing of the supposed recantation at this point where there is strong clamor to abrogate the VFA is also suspicious. If the pressure to issue the supposed recantation was specifically made to squash the momentum to abrogate VFA, then those behind this move are mistaken because no such acts will dampen the hearts of Filipinos who want the VFA abrogated. The fight to abrogate the VFA will continue to rage on. Without the VFA, there wouldn’t have been a Nicole.”

As regards the publication of the name and picture of Nicole, “it would have been best if the name and picture of Nicole were kept confidential in accordance with the protective measures provided under Republic Act 8505. Keeping the identity of a rape victim confidential makes life easier for rape survivors and it encourages more rape victims to file complaints,” added Atty. Padilla.