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Palace: Subic rape case verdict won't affect RP-US ties

Manila (5 December) -- Malacaņan on Monday said the conviction of a US marine for the rape of a Filipina in Subic Bay Freeport last year will not affect relations between the Philippine and US governments.

"We laud the triumph of impartial justice. The court maintained an even keel despite the tremendous pressures upon the bench," Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said in a statement.

"We have shown the world that due process is a hallmark of Philippine democracy. It is not about diplomatic relations but about universal justice and the rule of law," he added.

US Ambassador Kirstie Kenney told ABS-CBN Regional Network Group that she has yet to receive the official announcement on the verdict of the rape case. She added, however, that those acquitted will be allowed to go back to duty.

Judge Benjamin Pozon of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 139 convicted and sentenced Lance Corporal Daniel J. Smith to 40 years in prison for raping the complainant "Nicole" at the former US naval base in Subic Bay last year.

"The prosecution having presented sufficient evidence against Lance Corporal Daniel J. Smith, also of the US Marine Corps assigned at the USS Essex, this court hereby finds him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape," Pozon said in his ruling.

The court, however, acquitted respondents Chad Carpentier, Dominic Duplantis, and Keith Silkwood of the rape of the complainant.

The court also ordered Smith to pay rape victim Nicole P100,000 in compensatory and moral damages.

Nicole's mother said she will go to church immediately to pray after hearing of the decision.

"Natutuwa ako na lumabas ang katotohanan at nagpapasalamat ako sa Diyos. Magsisimba muna at magpapasalamat kami (I am happy and I thank God that the truth has come out. We will go to church to give thanks)," she said in an interview.

The case has stirred emotions in the Philippines and resurrected controversies linked to the US military's presence in the Philippines , which has been credited with helping Filipino troops crack down on militants in the country's restive south.

The verdict was issued weeks before the mandatory one-year trial lapse under the VFA.

The RP-US treaty stipulated that Philippine courts must render a decision on cases against American servicemen within a year or else lose the authority to compel them to appear in court. While Philippine and US authorities differed in interpreting the treaty, the VFA kept the accused under US custody throughout the four-month trial. (PIA-MMIO) [top]

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