For Immediate Release
Jonathan Zirkle, Deputy Educational Development Officer, Anakbayan New Jersey
Bryan Chen, Anakbayan New Jersey
One Year Later: Justice for Jennifer Laude! US Troops out of the Philippines!
Anakbayan NJ remembers Jennifer Laude, a Filipina transwoman who was murdered by Scott Pemberton, a US Marine, on October 11th one year ago today. Laude had met Pemberton at Ambyanz, a social club in Olangapo City, Philippines. While the marine appeared to be friendly, Jennifer’s friend, Barbie, described him as noticeably inebriated during the initial meeting. Soon after their introduction, they had left the club and checked into the nearby Celzone Lounge, a motel. It was there that Pemberton has alleged, recently, that the two of them had a physical altercation after he had fondled Jennifer. According to his statement, he shoved Jennifer after this, which initiated the conflict. The fight ended with him strangling Laude until she was unconscious. Dragging her to the bathroom, he claims that he splashed water from the toilet on Laude’s face and, receiving no response, left her slumped over the receptacle.
Although Pemberton was arrested and held at Camp Aguinaldo, he was never held in full custody by Philippine Authorities, being detained primarily by the US Navy. In addition, the marine was provided several privileges not generally offered to defendants in Philippine court, a substantial plea deal was offered to the Laude family in his name, reporters were banned from the courtroom, and the court was allotted only one year to complete proceedings. These resources afforded to the defense are similar to those offered to several marines in People of the Philippines vs. Chad Carpentier, Dominic Duplantis, Keith Silkwood, and Daniel Smith. In this case, several US Marines were accused of raping a Filipina, Suzette Nicolas, and were all acquitted while in custody of their own government.
These recurring themes and events are unfortunate reminders of persisting discrimination against trans people in Philippine society, and the misogyny in public outcry, with outspoken sections of the community calling both these cases complex “extortion rackets”. They aliso show the incredible political clout that the US holds over the Philippine government because of treaties like the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which allow visiting US service people substantial privileges in travel, lodging and legal matters. Indeed, the opportunity for accused US military personnel to be held by their own country’s military authorities during legal proceedings is explicitly outlined in Section 6 of Article 5 of the VFA. It is these treaties that effectively make Filipinas like Jennifer Laude and Suzette Nicolas second-class citizens in their own countries. The damage of these events are not limited to the Philippines either, as migrant Filipinos struggle with discrimination and oppression because of their country’s non-existent national sovereignty and global power.
As an organization dedicated to bringing about democracy in the Philippines that benefits Filipino people instead of foreign imperialist interests, Anakbayan New Jersey condemns the extraordinary acts of violence that military personnel have been acquitted for in our country. The unique plight of gender non-conforming people of our communities and the world are in our interests as a comprehensive group that calls for the liberation of all people.
The weakness of the Philippine government is exposed often because of tragedies such as Jennifer Laude’s murder. The Filipino Government is run like a business, with crimes and insults often being overlooked for the benefit of very few. This is why development is limited to small sections of the Philippines, such as Makati City and Metro Manila, and wealth is accrued only by small sections of the population, like the political dynasties of the Cojuangcos and Estradas. The weakness of the state in the Philippines can only be remedied by more equal land distribution and agrarian reform, as well as national industrialization to allow for natural resources to be used by Filipinos instead of being sold to foreign corporations.
Anakbayan New Jersey calls upon Filipino and Fil-am youth to embrace their history of resistance and decry the awful crimes committed against Jennifer Laude. We must work to put pressure both on the US government to cease imperialistic activities in the Philippines, as well as dismantle the puppet regimes working to oppress the masses in our homeland. It is through this work that we can honor Jennifer’s memory, and work to build a world where trans people of color no longer must fear for their lives.