She was found sitting down on the bathroom floor with her head slumped in the toilet bowl. Her hair, face, and body were all wet. She was no longer breathing, unconscious, unresponsive, and her pulse was absent. Her lower lip was swollen and inflamed; her tongue was protruding; her upper body and arms were cold; and her circulation was also absent.
An autopsy report said that she died by Asphyxia due to drowning and strangulation.
It was later found that she was hit; she was choked with an arm lock until she stopped moving; she was dragged into the bathroom; and her head was dunked inside the toilet bowl until her last breathe.
It was cruel. It was treacherous. There was an abuse of superior strength as US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton is a trained serviceman and a boxer. Yet he was just convicted for homicide, a bailable offense.
With this decision, the court just guaranteed his freedom in as little as six years on good behavior. For more, by citing “trans panic” arguments including the concealment of gender identity as a mitigating factor, the court has encouraged more hate-crimes against our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters.
How then could this be justice?
It is not. It is a victory, an insufficient victory, but not justice at all.
The reason is that the Philippine society and the government turned their blind eye to justice. For one, the legal and judicial system failed to appreciate the evidence pointing to murder. Despite the witnesses’ testimonies, the details of the crime scene, and his hate language against her, the verdict was only homicide.
Second, discrimination and homophobia/transphobia intensified as the case progressed. Hate posts and comments were all over the social media, all blaming Jennifer Laude for her own murder, condoning hate-crimes against LGBTs, and sympathizing with Pemberton and all other perpetrators.
Third, despite the court order that Pemberton, as a national prisoner should be jailed immediately but temporarily [because of VFA] at the national penitentiary, the Philippine government was unwilling to assert its full sovereignty as to where Pemberton should be imprisoned. That is why he was accorded special treatment and was returned to Camp Aguinaldo after conviction.
Now, the government is expeditiously constructing a custom-made detention center for Pemberton – an insult to the Filipino people but an act of subservience to US imperialism. The government cannot even build additional school buildings for our children, yet when it comes to addressing US interests, the government is as fast as a lightning bolt.
Such actions breed the culture of impunity – the non-rendering of justice and accountability.
How then could we attain justice for Jennifer and all other victims of hate-crimes, state militarism and violence?
Lopsided agreements between the Philippines and the United States play a major role in the continuity of human rights violations with impunity in the country. Such agreements nurture a condition where Filipinos especially the women, children, and LGBTs will be vulnerable to abuse as already proven by the history of US military presence in the country.
The murder of Jennifer Laude is not only an issue about transphobia but also an issue of the US’s violation of Philippine sovereignty as her case was further aggravated by US militarism and violence through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). It seems to be a déjà vu as the case is very similar to the 2005 Subic Rape Case, when Suzette Nicolas, the rape victim endured an uphill battle over the issue of custody of accused Lance Corporal Daniel Smith despite specific provisions in the Anti-Rape Law stating that the accused should be detained in a Philippine facility for the duration of the trial. In the end, Daniel Smith was able to sneak out of the country.
With this, only through the passage of an Anti-Discrimination Act and the full assertion of our sovereignty – getting hold of custody over Pemberton; reopening of the various cases of human rights violations committed by US soldiers in the Philippines and the prosecution of the perpetrators; and immediate termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement – will justice prevail. # nordis.net