Too much victimization

This is my column today.

Now that “Nicole” has supposedly recanted her story— I say supposedly because there’s a lot of unanswered questions and naturally a lot of speculative drivel around her latest affidavit—there are now a lot of people saying they doubted her story all along.

Actually, the word “doubt” does not even begin to describe the vitriol that’s being heaped on her person in the comment sections of various Web logs and Internet sites.

It seems it is now politically correct to splash her face in various media, reveal her identity, bash her, and call her names because apparently she is no longer a victim. I don’t really know what it was that made media people decide that it was now okay to reveal her identity since everyone else is saying that her current affidavit is not material to the case anyway. Nevertheless, she has seemingly jumped from being the symbol of the oppressed to being a harlot who has betrayed her country and her people. Worst, there are now people who think she should be jailed for perjury and for destroying the life of an innocent man.

Now that everyone knows what she looks like the bigots are having a field day mocking her. One very cruel comment I read said that American serviceman Daniel Smith, who apparently is the epitome of handsomeness to some, couldn’t have raped someone with her looks. I tell you, some people are mean beyond words.

Of course there are also people out there who are saying that the probity of her latest affidavit is questionable. There’s a lot of theorizing that’s happening out there.

There are legal experts who insist that the latest affidavit does not in fact say that she believed she was not raped—she is not just sure anymore if what happened can be called as such. In other words, she left it all up to the judgment of more impartial, perhaps more qualified persons. I know. Such hairsplitting is often beyond the comprehension of most people.

And then there are those who think that her recantation is in fact typical of people who are suffering from the “victim syndrome.” Most victims, experts say, tend to blame themselves for the misfortunes that befell them and condition themselves to thinking that they were partly to blame for their tragedy.

But overall, I think that quite a sizable percentage of people now empathize with Smith and I can’t say I blame them. If the person who is supposed to be the victim of the crime says she is not sure anymore if what happened was indeed rape, what then is everyone else supposed to do? It’s difficult to take up the cudgels for someone who has now thrown in the towel and wants to be left alone in peace.

So what are we to do then? A number of people are now trying to widen the contours of the discussion taking it beyond the current dilemma and contextualizing past and present events within the weaknesses and limitations of the justice system in the country.

What they are trying to say is that crimes such as rape always turns out to be a lose-lose situation for the victims. They end up being victimized over and over again—and in the end eventually succumb to the pressure. There are a few exceptions, of course. There are women like Maggie de la Riva who are able to reclaim their honor, but they represent the exception.

In this context, we can say that perhaps Nicole never really had a fighting chance, to begin with. She had an American serviceman as a boyfriend who was not with her at the time she was in Subic. That makes her a cheat in the eyes of some. She was drinking and dancing at a bar inside a former naval base frequented by sex workers. This automatically painted her as a woman of loose morals. She decided to be left alone with Smith in the bar since she was having a good time. This translated to an invitation to be ravaged. In short, she was really up against heavy cultural taboo.

It must be pointed out that all these do not and cannot justify rape—in fact, there is no justification for it. Rape is rape regardless of who and what the victims are.

And then there was the political pressure. She was up against a superpower. The Philippine government didn’t really take up the cudgels for her and on a number of occasions seemed like it was even lawyering for the American serviceman instead. And to top it all, certain political groups was making her a poster girl for their various issues. So I guess it was expected that Nicole would eventually opt for some peace and quiet. There’s only so much victimization a person can take, after all.


If there’s a lesson to be learned from the current scandals involving fashion designer Boyet Fajardo and comedian Bayani Agbayani, it’s that people – particularly those with reputations to protect—should always be in their best behavior when caught in tight situations. Losing one’s temper, throwing one’s weight around, and generally being obnoxious can be disastrous to one’s career in this day and age when almost everyone has a cell phone with a camera and Internet access.

Both Fajardo and Agbayani were caught in embarrassing situations recently. Fajardo berated a hapless employee at a Duty Free shop and demanded that the employee kneel in front of him, which the guy did. Agbayani, on the other hand, had an altercation with a group and was caught spewing words best described as straight from the sewerage. Unfortunately for them, both episodes were recorded on a cell phone video and uploaded to the Internet via YouTube.

There’s now a vicious backlash directed at these two people. Like anything else, this new development is a double-edged sword. It can be empowering for people who have otherwise no access to media for their advocacies. But it can also be prone to abuses.


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