“There would be no other way to best honor the memory of Jennifer Laude and boost the people’s cry for justice than by putting an end to the special treatment enjoyed by Pemberton and abrogating Edca, the VFA.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Two years after she was killed, justice continues to elude Filipina transgender Jennifer Laude, activists say, as the American serviceman convicted for her death is detained in a special prison and the defense pact that brought him here remains in force.
In simultaneous protests here today, Oct. 11, women and youth groups commemorated Laude’s death calling on President Duterte to revoke the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), which they say may result to more crimes similar to Laude’s killing.
Today, incidentally marks the end of the PH-US Amphibious Landing Exercises (Phiblex). The war games, which finished a day earlier, was recently declared by Duterte to be the last.
On Oct. 11, 2014, transgender Jennifer Laude, 26, was found dead slumped in a toilet bowl in a motel room in Olongapo City, Zambales province, shortly after coming in with then 19-year-old US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton. The US Marine was on a “rest and recreation” break after the PH-US military exercises under VFA. Pemberton, later promoted to lance corporal rank, was convicted of homicide and sentenced by a Subic court to six to 12 years in prison, later commuted to six to 10 years.
Gabriela led the protest at the gates of Camp Aguinaldo, where Pemberton is serving his sentence inside a special custodial facility built after he was convicted. The protesters said Pemberton should be transferred to the New Bilibid Penitentiary in Muntinlupa City, where convicted criminals are imprisoned.
Youth protesters led by the League of Filipino Students staged a lightning rally outside the US embassy along Roxas Boulevard.
“There would be no other way to best honor the memory of Jennifer Laude and boost the people’s cry for justice than by putting an end to the special treatment enjoyed by Pemberton and abrogating Edca, the VFA and all other military treaties that have spawned abuses, violence and deaths among Filipino women and children,” said Gabriela Women’s Party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus.
GWP is seeking other lawmakers’ backing for House Resolution 420, expressing the sense of the House of Representatives’ support for Duterte’s pronouncements on Edca and ending the PH-US war games.
In a privilege speech yesterday, Oct. 10, De Jesus hailed Duterte’s series of tirades against America and its atrocities in the Philippines and other colonized people, even as she decried the “culture of impunity” among American servicemen involved in crimes against Filipino citizens.
“It cannot be denied that Jennifer’s death is just another picture of the people’s vulnerability, specially of women, who become victim of different forms of violence in the hands of foreign troops,” said De Jesus.
She recalled the case of Suzette Nicolas or “Nicole,” who was raped by US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith in 2005. Smith walked free shortly after he was convicted of the rape, when Nicolas retracted her original statement positively identifying Smith as the perpetrator. Activists believed it to be a forced settlement by US authorities, as Nicolas later migrated to the US.
De Jesus said that instead of defending Laude and “Nicole,” the Philippine government gave “special treatment” to the US servicemen involved.
Meanwhile, the group Bahaghari LGBT took their protest to social media, changing their Facebook profile picture into “toilet bowl selfies,” to depict how Pemberton choked Laude to death on a toilet bowl. The group gathered at AS steps in the University of the Philippines Diliman to light candles to #RememberJennifer.