Philippine activists on Okinawa to back woman’s rape claim
July 19, 2008
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Philippine women’s party leader and other women’s rights activists arrived on Okinawa on Wednesday to support a 22-year-old Filipina who claims she was raped by a U.S. soldier in February.
Accompanying them is the woman’s mother.
The alleged victim, identified only as "Hazel," claims she was raped in an Okinawa City hotel room Feb. 18 by Sgt. Ronald Hopstock Jr., 25, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment on Kadena Air Base.
Citing a lack of evidence, Okinawa prosecutors dropped the charges against Hopstock in April. The soldier remains restricted to Kadena Air Base pending an Army investigation into the allegation.
Hazel’s cause has been taken up by the Gabriela Women’s Party, which claims the Philippine government is failing to protect citizens who work overseas.
"The group of five people from the Philippines, including representative Liza Maza, is meeting today with officials of the Japanese government," Rich Buchpongos, a coordinator for Migrante Japan, an organization supporting the rights of Philippine foreign workers, said Thursday.
"The Gabriela mission to Okinawa hopes to give Hazel the much-needed moral and legal support in this uphill battle for justice," Maza said as she left Manila on Wednesday with Nanay Melly, Hazel’s mother, according to the party’s Web site (http://gabrielanews.wordpress.com ).
"We will be meeting with Hazel, her custodian, Okinawan government officials and the Filipino community in Okinawa," she said. "We hope to be able to properly assess what the Philippine government has done and failed to do in Hazel’s case so that we will be able to take the next appropriate steps to make the perpetrator accountable."
While on Okinawa, Maza, a principal author of the Philippines Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Children Act, said she also would look into the situation of other Philippine migrants and entertainers in Okinawa.