MANILA - The death of a transgender in Olongapo City allegedly at the hands of an American soldier has pushed activists to question anew the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which has been declared constitutional by the Supreme Court.
Gabriela Party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus said the incident involving Jeffrey Laude, aka Jenny, only proves the questionable provisions in the agreement between the Philippines and the US.
De Jesus and the Kapederasyon LGBT Sectoral Organization called on the government not to allow the case to end up like what happened to Lance Corporal Daniel Smith.
Civil society groups, led by former Senate President Jovito Salonga, had questioned the VFA following the move detaining Smith in the United States Embassy while his rape case was ongoing at the Court of Appeals.
Smith has since been acquitted and returned to the US.
The VFA is an “implementing agreement” of the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty. Signed on August 30, 1951, it has been ratified and concurred in by both the Philippine and US senates.
Under the treaty, both the US and the Philippines agreed to implement military exercises for the purpose of resisting armed attacks.
“We call for a thorough investigation and swift justice, and warn the government that we will remain vigilant against efforts to cover-up the facts of the case and give special treatment to the suspected perpetrator who was identified as a United States soldier,” Kapederasyon said.
The group called on the US to hand over the soldier to Philippine authorities immediately.
“We caution the government against engaging in another whitewash under the guise of implementing the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). We fear that the suspect will be another Daniel Smith who was given special treatment and escaped the Philippine justice system,” the group said.
The suspect, a US Marine, is now in detention while members of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are probing his alleged role in the death of a transgender in Olongapo City on October 11.
Navytimes.com reported that the soldier is being detained on board the Peleliu, an amphibious assault ship currently docked in the city for the military exercises between the two nations. Three of his colleagues are also detained for being potential witnesses.
The Marine is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Laude was found dead inside the comfort room of Celzone Hotel in Barangay West Tapinac.
Initial reports said Laude checked in at the hotel with a foreigner, who appeared to be in his mid-20s. The foreigner, later described as a soldier, supposedly left the room after about half an hour.
Pentagon officials declined to comment, according to the navytimes.com.