For Immediate Release
December 5, 2015
Laura Emily E. Austria, Vice Chairperson, Women’s Committee, Anakbayan New Jersey
Devyn Mañibo, Finance Officer, Women’s Committee, Anakbayan New Jersey
(470) 309-2265, firstname.lastname@example.org
Condemn the Coddling of Murderer, Joseph Pemberton. US Out of the Philippines!
Anakbayan New Jersey vehemently condemns the lesser homicide conviction of the murderer Joseph Scott Pemberton. On October 11, 2014, Jennifer Laude, a Filipino trans woman, was murdered by Pemberton, a U.S. marine participating in joint military exercises in the Philippines. While Pemberton was convicted of homicide, this is an egregious display of injustice given the overwhelming evidence of his guilt of a murder charge. Rather, Pemberton was given a lesser offense and was sentenced to serve 6-12 years in prison with a $95,000 fine payable to the Laude family by the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74. The U.S. government has attempted to move Pemberton’s detainment to the U.S. and a jailhouse in Camp Aguinaldo is reportedly being built jointly by the Philippine and U.S. government.
Philippines: Playground for US Military
Millions of Filipinos have fallen victim to atrocities committed with impunity by the US military since the Philippine- American War of 1899. Historically, one-sided policies and agreements have shaped US-GPH relations, with the US as the sole beneficiary. US military “benefits” do not only specify full access to Philippine land for bases in these packages, but include infrastructure and people (mostly women) for rest and recreation activities in areas such as around Subic Bay, where Laude was murdered.
The encroachment of US military in Philippine soil only serves imperialist interests and protect American personnel in the area, while dismissing the rights of Filipinos in their own territory as in the rape case against US Marine, Daniel Smith, by Filipina Suzette “Nicole” Nicolas in 2005. Despite having been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt in 2006, Smith was acquitted of the rape conviction in 2009, following a controversial recantation statement from Nicolas. Gender-based exploitation and violence are particularly prevalent in and around military operations with or without active warfare, with US servicemen not truly being held accountable by the justice system.
Advance the National Democratic Program, Junk EDCA
The governments of both the United States and the Philippines have unjust agreements that have only been highlighted through the case of Jennifer Laude: the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) of 2014. The establishment of the VFA serves as the foundation for the entry and visit of US military personnel for the purpose of military exercises, and EDCA expands the parameters, modalities, and mechanisms already touched upon in the VFA. The existence of the VFA and EDCA violate the national sovereignty of the Philippines; the Philippine government cannot even keep Pemberton in their prisons because EDCA keeps their hands tied from making sure this US marine truly faces the consequences of his actions.
As an overseas National Democratic organization, Anakbayan New Jersey recognize that feudalism is the social base of imperialism. The Philippine government is not standing up for the interests and welfare of its people. In the semi-feudal, semi-colonial Philippine society, politicians and the comprador bourgeois class will keep bowing down to the United States. The toiling masses must continue to rise up and organize towards genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization in the Philippines in order to liberate our people from the violence of US imperialism.
Giving Pemberton a slap on the wrist with a guilty verdict for homicide rather than murder comes at a time where we, as Anakbayan New Jersey, observed International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners the day before. Political prisoners are treated harshly because they recognize that the semi-feudal and semi-colonial characteristics of Philippine society must be smashed. Their cases are made up, and yet these political prisoners are forced to suffer in their cells because they care more about the welfare of the Filipino people than its own government does. In contrast, Pemberton is allowed to serve only 6 to 12 years in prison and pay $95,000 to the Laude family. President B.S. Aquino claims that “[…] as a sovereign state, we have an agreement with another sovereign state. It has been there. The court has ruled. Pemberton faced the court. He was sentenced by our court. Our personnel will secure him so he can serve his sentence.” Despite the lies the Philippine administration tries to spin, the reality is that the Philippine government is handing over Pemberton to the United States despite their overwhelmingly large role in the death of Jennifer Laude. These stark differences and abhorrent myths only serve to highlight where the interests of the Philippine government lies — their pockets.
Filipinos in the US, Unite vs. Violence Against Women
ABNJ, with the leadership of the ABNJ Women’s Committee, commemorates Jennifer Laude’s death and calls for justice alongside GABRIELA USA for a National Days of Action in response to the verdict beginning on December 4th, the anniversary of the Daniel Smith guilty verdict. It will also be a part of the GABRIELA USA’s 4 Weeks of IDEVAW. We urge concerned individuals to sign the petition and attend local actions.
On December 4, ABNJ joined GABRIELA New York in front of the Philippine Consulate. Laura Emily Austria, Vice Chairperson and member of the Women’s Committee, led the group in the song, “Ang Pagiging Babae” by Musikang Bayan. Gian Parel of the ABNJ and BAYAN Queer Caucus spoke on behalf of ABNJ. “What does justice for Jennifer look like?,” they asked. “It doesn’t look like this shameful sentence that lets him get away with only 6-12 years and $95,000. It doesn’t look like a new, special detention facility custom-made for Pemberton. Justice looks like getting rid of VFA and EDCA because as long as these unequal treaties are in place the U.S. military’s presence and their violence against women won’t end. Violence against trans women especially won’t end. Junk VFA and junk EDCA — that’s what justice for Jennifer is.”
Since the founding of Anakbayan New York/New Jersey in 2005, and the formal inception of Anakbayan NJ in 2012, we have been committed to advancing women’s rights and justice for all women. The founding of Anakbayan New Jersey’s Women’s Committee in 2015 has renewed our commitment to study the analyze the concrete experiences of Filipinas and the multilayered oppressions we collectively and individually hold and to seek tangible ways of breaking down the three basic problems of imperialism, feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism, which perpetuate and sustain force and brutality against the most oppressed.
It is our mission and duty to stand with those left invisible, to uphold the rights of poor and working class women, to uplift the stories of queer and trans Filipinos, to actively participate in mass campaigns and mobilizations that respond the the immediate needs and concerns of those affected by the brunt of the three basic problems. We must work towards exposing the manifestations and breaking down the imperialist, patriarchal, transmisogynist systems, which perpetuate violence, hardship, and exploitation.
We call on Filipino youth in the United States to join Anakbayan in educating, organizing, and mobilizing our community to support those affected by gender-based violence, and to support the removal of US military bases and personnel in the Philippines and other developing countries, and to end US occupation over our homes, psyche, and bodies.
End unequal agreements between U.S. and Philippines! Permanently eradicate VFA & EDCA!
BS Aquino assert Philippine national sovereignty! U.S./Obama turn over Pemberton to the Philippine authorities NOW!
Justice for Jennifer Laude and all trans women!
Pemberton should have been convicted of MURDER, NOT HOMICIDE! End Transmisogyny Now!