I am not an expert on Foreign Affairs nor do I claim to be well-versed in Philippine law to understand how this should work. I am simply a spectator, wondering how justice will be served in a situation like this.
Two weekends ago, the international news community was jolted by a report of a transgendered Filipina woman who was murdered at a lodge in Olongapo City, Philippines. The CCTV captured images of Jennifer Laude with a “foreigner” as she walked up the steps to go to their bedroom. Jennifer was found by a hotel clerk in the bathroom, next to the toilet. It was believed that she was strangled and drowned to death.
In the middle of last week, the alleged suspect was identified (and is being held in U.S. custody aboard USS Peleliu in the Subic Free Trade Zone) as Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, 19-years old, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, a U.S. Marine who is temporarily stationed with the carrier at the said location.
I don’t know if there is an agreement between the Philippines and U.S. Government in cases such as this one. And if there is no agreement, it’s time that one be set. The VFA or Visiting Forces Agreement should have it in writing that any crime committed by service men during their visit should be tried locally and the Philippines should have the right to hold the suspect in custody.
Upon further research, I found that there is an agreement in a case like this.
The VFA clearly states:
Article 5 item 6 of VFA (Criminal Jurisdiction) states, in part, that:
“6. The custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings. United States military authorities shall, upon formal notification by the Philippine authorities and without delay, make such personnel available to those authorities in time for any investigative or judicial proceedings relating to the offense with which the person has been charged. In extraordinary cases, the Philippine Government shall present its position to the United States Government regarding custody, which the United States Government shall take into full account. In the event Philippine judicial proceedings are not completed within one year, the United States shall be relieved of any obligations under this paragraph. The one year period will not include the time necessary to appeal. Also, the one year period will not include any time during which scheduled trial procedures are delayed because United States authorities, after timely notification by Philippine authorities to arrange for the presence of the accused, fail to do so.”  – Source
This unfortunate event is reminiscent of the Subic Rape Case back in 2005. Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was charged and convicted of rape but then, the conviction was later reversed and acquitted Daniel Smith.
This situation with the murder of Jennifer Laude is much worst than the Subic Rape Case. This is a murder case and should be considered a hate crime in my opinion. We cannot allow anyone who commits murder to get away with it. What should we do to protect transgendered people? What would Geena Rocero do? What would Gender Proud as an organization do?
It doesn’t matter what the reason behind this murder is. Murder is murder.
What do you guys think?