Whitewash feared in transgender woman's slay
Similar cases will happen again with EDCA, Roque warns
MANILA - The murder of transgender woman Jennifer Laude is clearly a case of a hate crime, according to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) group Ladlad.
Speaking to ANC's "Headstart" on Wednesday, Ladlad spokesperson Bemz Benedito expressed disappointment over what she called "blaming the victim syndrome," pertaining to the two motives reportedly being looked at by Philippine authorities in the killing of Laude.
"Lahat ng theory nilabas na nila, pero lahat it's all against the victim," Benedito said.
Laude was found lifeless inside a hotel bathroom in Olongapo City on the night of October 11. Her neck was pressed down on the toilet seat and her head was shoved into the toilet bowl.
One motive being looked into by the police is that the suspect, identified as US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, got mad after finding out that Laude was a transgender woman.
Another theory is that Laude could have tried to steal from the suspect.
But according to Benedito, it is very unlikely that there was deception on the part of Laude. She said the victim never kept it a secret that she was a transgender woman, and she was also well known in the bar where she and the suspect met.
Benedito believes the suspect was aware that Laude was a transgender woman even before they went to the hotel.
HATE CRIME EXPLAINED
The suspect, however, might have questioned himself after he engaged in a sexual activity with Laude, Benedito said.
There were two used condoms found in the garbage can inside the hotel room, Benedito noted, citing police reports.
"Maybe it dawned on him (Pemberton) that 'why am I doing this?' and he still considered a transgender woman to be a man...and that ended into a hate crime. Because upon that processing, that personal assessment, then there's that hatred, frustration of the self why he engaged into such kind of sexual act," she said.
But Benedito stressed that Laude's identity as a transgender woman does not give anyone the "license" to kill her.
The Ladlad spokesperson lamented that the murder of Laude is just one of many cases involving LGBTs because there is no policy in the country that protects them.
She said even the anti-discrimination bill, which President Benigno Aquino III promised to pass when he campaigned for the presidency in 2010, has not been passed until now.
According to Benedito, Ladlad fears a whitewash in the killing of Laude. She claimed that a lot of information is not being disclosed by authorities.
"We are not satisfied with the way the case is going. The investigation, I think, is not even moving. We only get very limited information on the ground," she said, adding that the name of the US Marine suspect was only revealed on Tuesday.
"We are really very furious... We are up in arms. We are very indignant right now because we feel that it's going to end up in a whitewash, in a cover-up," she said.
In the same interview, international law expert Harry Roque said Philippine authorities cannot be 100 percent sure that Pemberton is still on board the US Navy ship USS Peleliu as claimed.
Roque stressed that there is no provision in the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that states that the US cannot take away from the Philippines any personnel who has committed an offense on Philippine soil.
"We are assuming that the only way by which he can leave the country is through his ship. But he can be flown by aircraft and we would not know it," he said.
US SOLDIERS 'EMBOLDENED'
Under the VFA, the US government can request custody of any US personnel who has committed an offense. But the Philippine government can deny the request in extraordinary cases such as rape and murder, Roque said.
"It is up to our leaders to decide whether or not we want to surrender custody," he said.
In the case of Laude, however, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Pio Gregorio Catapang has already said that the US will keep custody of the US Marine suspect.
Roque lamented that this would embolden US soldiers to commit crimes on Philippine soil knowing that they would unlikely be detained in Philippine jails.
"Definitely, it emboldens them. Without a doubt," Roque said.
"They know what happened with Daniel Smith. They're probably saying 'Oh, Filipino women are cheap. We can get away with whatever we want, and Uncle Sam, our government, will never surrender us,'" he added.
US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was the suspect in the alleged rape of Filipina "Nicole" in 2005. Smith was found guilty by a Makati court but was later released in 2009 after the victim recanted and exonerated him.
'THIS IS NOT THE LAST'
Roque said the Philippine government must demand custody of Pemberton. The case against the US Marine suspect also has to be filed by the state, he said.
A verdict also has to be handed down within one year from the filing of the case, or the case would be over, he added.
"The clock starts ticking now. So the criminal justice system of the Philippines should better start moving, and they better start moving fast."
"If we are not able to convict him within that one year period, then he gets away scot-free...and he can be returned to the US, and that's it," he said.
Roque also warned that the Philippines will not see the last of similar cases especially with the recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which allows US troops to have access and set up temporary bases in designated areas owned and controlled by the AFP.
"The reality is for as long as we have them, we will always have the case of Daniel Smith and now Jennifer Laude. They could commit crimes against our people and they could get away with it," he said.
He added: "How many more Filipinos will have to be killed and raped by US servicemen before an uproar actually takes place?"
Section Main Story,Focus,murder,crime,VFA,Harry Roque,hate crime,transgender,Visiting Forces Agreement,LGBT,Ladlad,US marine,nation,jeffrey laude,jennifer laude,joseph scott pemberton,Bemz Benedicto