MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino woman whose accusations of rape led to the conviction of a U.S. Marine has altered her testimony and emigrated to the United States, saying she was no longer certain that a crime took place, a lawyer said Wednesday.
The case has strained U.S.-Philippine military relations amid calls for the scrapping of a pact allowing U.S. troops to train Filipino soldiers, and has become a rallying point for anti-American protests.
Three years after Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith was convicted of rape and sentenced to 40 years in jail, his accuser submitted a five-page affidavit to an appeals court Tuesday saying she now doubts her own version of events.
"My conscience continues to bother me realizing that I may have in fact been so friendly and intimate with Daniel Smith ... that he was led to believe that I was amenable to having sex or that we simply just got carried away," the woman said in the statement.
She described the two were drinking, kissing and dancing at a bar at the former U.S. Naval base at Subic Bay before moving to a van, where she originally told the court she was raped while she passed out. Smith had insisted the sex was consensual.
The turnabout has shocked her supporters, including lawyer Evalyn Ursua, who said her client terminated her services this week then moved to the U.S. to start a new life and was no longer willing to talk.
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said the woman could be charged with perjury and her affidavit may not be admitted as new evidence because it should have been introduced during the 2006 trial.
"I am not happy with her because her accusations divided the nation, then she turns her back on everything," he said, adding the case had affected the country's foreign policy.
The U.S. Embassy in Manila is consulting with American government legal experts in Washington on the case, embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Thompson said, without elaborating. She refused to comment on reports that the woman had gone to the United States.
Smith, 23, from St. Louis, Missouri, has been detained at the U.S. Embassy while his case is on appeal. Last month, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled he should be serving his sentence in a Philippine jail but left it to the government to negotiate his transfer with Washington. Smith is appealing his conviction.