MANILA – The Department of National Defense (DND) appealed to the public to ''look at the bigger picture'' and not blame the military exercises between the Philippines and the United States for the death of a Filipino transgender woman where a US Marine was tagged as the suspect.
"This is an isolated incident, albeit a tragic one. We call on all concerned not to lose sight of the bigger picture and to look at these - PH-US exercises, EDCA and homicide - as different issues," said DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez.
The US Marine, identified by the Philippine National Police as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, has been tagged in the killing of transgender woman Jeffrey Laude alias Jennifer.
Laude was last seen alive checking in at the hotel in Olongapo City. The hotel staff said Laude's companion, described as a foreigner, already left the hotel when her remains were found.
Laude's death has sparked outrage among members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community.
Militant groups which have long opposed the presence of US military in the Philippines also seized on the issue, renewing their call for the scrapping of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Galvez said the military exercises with the US is an important aspect in developing the Philippines' military, considered as one of Asia's weakest.
"If we have no exercise, there will also be no one to help us in developing our capabilities...We should treat these as different issues. Of course its easy to generalize and our appeal is not to generalize," Galvez said.
"We don't want the entire exercises to be ruined because of one person."