MANILA, Philippines – A young U.S. Marine faces 40 years in jail after being convicted Monday of rape in a landmark case that has become a symbol for women’s rights and national sovereignty in the Philippines.
Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Benjamin Pozon rejected Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith’s claim that the woman was a willing partner, saying she was too drunk to have consented to having sex.
Three other Marines were acquitted of complicity for allegedly cheering on Smith in the back of a moving van.
As the verdict was delivered, cheers and applause broke out in the courtroom, and the 23-year-old woman began weeping as supporters embraced her. “I’m sad that three were acquitted, but I’m also happy because one was convicted,” the young woman, who is Filipino, told ABS-CBN television in a telephone interview.
But as the convicted Marine was exiting the courtroom, a scuffle broke out between U.S. Embassy guards and Philippines police as both tried to take Smith away, underscoring the territorial dimension in the case which has consistently made front pages in the past year with lurid details. Filipino guards eventually secured the Marine’s custody.
The U.S. Embassy had retained custody of Smith during the prosecution, in line with a treaty governing foreign troops in the former American colony after the closing of U.S. bases in the early 1990s.