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thedrifter
12-19-05, 07:50 AM
Manila delays decision in U.S. troops' rape case
Mon Dec 19, 2005 5:27 AM ET
By Manny Mogato

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine prosecutors will wait until after Christmas to decide whether to file charges against six U.S. Marines facing a rape complaint from a 22-year-old Filipino woman, officials said on Monday.

Prosecutors in Olongapo City, northwest of Manila, are investigating allegations the soldiers, who took part in two-week military exercises in October, gang-raped the woman on November 1 in a van at a former U.S. Navy base at Subic Bay.

They had been expected to make a decision about the charges by December 25 after the submission of final arguments by both sides.

Prudencio Jalandoni, the chief prosecutor in Olongapo City, said his office must beat a 60-day deadline to determine whether there was enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

"I decided to move the issuance of a resolution to December 27," Jalandoni told reporters.

"We have to be very careful. We need extra time to read the arguments of the opposing sides because these would be our basis for determining who would be charged in court and who would be dropped or there would be no case at all."

An extension until January was out of the question, he said.

The woman who filed the complaint and the six soldiers have not attended three public hearings held since late November. The Marines are being held in custody at the U.S. embassy in Manila.

Washington has not responded to a request by the Philippine foreign affairs department to transfer custody of the soldiers to local authorities.

In affidavits submitted by their lawyers, five of the Marines disputed the rape allegations, suggesting there was consensual sex. The sixth soldier did not submit an affidavit.

The case has aroused some anti-American sentiment in the Philippines, the only former U.S. colony in Asia and a major ally of Washington in the region.

Relations between the two countries soured in the 1990s when Philippine senators terminated a treaty allowing U.S. forces to keep naval and air bases that had been used as staging points during the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War.

The links were repaired when a more friendly Philippine Senate agreed to a Visiting Forces Agreement in 1999, allowing U.S. troops to return for military exercises and training.

Ellie