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MANILA, Philippines - Less than 24 hours after his acquittal by women justices of the Philippine Court of Appeals (CA) was made public, Lance Corporal Daniel Smith left the Philippines.
Smith could face court-martial after release He may already be a free man, but Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith may still have to face court-martial proceedings, according to Interior and Local Government undersecretary Marius Corpus. Corpus said Smith, like his three companions, Lance Cpls. Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis and Staff Sergeant Chad Carpentier, might face a military court at the US bases in Japan. The four belong to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Force stationed in Okinawa. Silkwood, Duplantis, and Carpentier were the companions of Smith when the later supposedly raped Suzette Nicolas a.k.a. Nicole inside a moving Starex van at the Alava Pier in Subic, Zambales. Though the three were acquitted of the supposed crime, Carpentier, the platoon leader, was dishonorably discharged from his post, while Silkwood and Duplantis were less than honorably discharged, according to Corpus, “Smith may soon be a free man, but his legal ordeal may not be over yet since he may still have to deal with the court martial," Corpus, chairman of the inspection team formed by Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno to oversee Smith's custody, said in a statement released to media on Friday. A court-martial refers to a military or naval court of officers that could try persons for offenses under military law. Corpus said that in his last visit to Smith in March, he noticed that the US Marine officer was gaining weight. On Thursday, April 23, the Philippine Court of Appeals acquitted Smith of raping Nicolas. The CA reversed and set aside the December 4, 2006 decision of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 139 convicting Smith of rape and sentencing him to 40 years in prison. - GMANews.TVUS Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Thompson said the US government was hoping that all the parties involved would move forward, following the decision of the CA to acquit the US serviceman earlier convicted by a lower court of raping a Filipina in Subic, Zambales. “Following the decision of the Philippine Court of Appeals, Daniel Smith departed the Philippines under the authority of United States military officials," Thompson said in a statement e-mailed to media on Friday. She described the case as a "difficult and emotional" one for all involved, especially the families and loved ones of the parties to the case. "We hope that the parties can move on with their lives," said the spokeswoman. According to Thompson, the US Embassy observed the terms of the Visiting Forces Agreement while the case of Smith was being tried until he was acquitted by the CA on Thursday, April 23. “Throughout this long and difficult case, Daniel Smith remained in custody at the US Embassy in the Philippines in compliance with the terms of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which provides the framework for US-Philippine cooperation in legal cases involving visiting U.S. military personnel," she said. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was informed of Smith's return to the US after the Court of Appeals ruled his “immediate release," an official said Friday. Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ed Malaya told GMANews.TV on Friday that the DFA was told about Smith’s release and subsequent return to the US. He, however, refused to specify when was the agency told about the US serviceman's departure. “The DFA was duly informed. The Court of Appeals decision stated that Lance Cpl.l Daniel Smith be released immediately. There is no more basis by which he can be held further in custody," Malaya said. No control over Smith Evalyn Ursua said she was not surprised with the development. Ursua is the former lawyer of Suzette Nicolas a.k.a "Nicole" who accused Smith of raping her in November 2005, Ursua said the Philippine government never had control of Smith because it allowed the US marine to be moved from the Makati City Jail to the US Embassy in December 2006. The US Embassy in Manila took custody of Smith after Judge Benjamin Pozon of the Makati Regional Trial Court on December 4, 2006 sentenced the American to 40 years in prison for raping Nicolas. "Sabi ko kagabi pa baka wala na si Daniel Smith [I suspect Smith was spirited out of the country as early as Thursday night]," Ursua said in an interview on dzBB. She said the case had been "dead" since Nicolas went abroad last month. Ursua said it might already be impossible to fight for Nicolas because the government seemed not to be interested in questioning Smith's acquittal. The issues that need to be pursued now are the constitutionality of the VFA and the ethics complaint filed against Smith's lawyers, according to Ursua. Ursua claimed that Smith's lawyers helped Nicolas execute her affidavit that weakened the accusations against the American. Nicolas hinted in her March 12 affidavit that she was not raped by Smith. "Ang natitira na issue ang VFA, constitutionality at yung liability ng lawyers ni Smith [What is left are the constitutionality of the VFA and the liability of Smith's lawyers]," Ursua said. - GMANews.TV