On October 11, 2014, a transgender woman from Subic named Jennifer Laude was brutally killed US Marine Private 1st Class Joseph Scott Pemberton. Jennifer’s head was dunked in a toilet bowl until she died of asphyxiation by drowning. This act reflects how Pemberton saw Jennifer: insignificant, sub-human—in other words, not worth more than shit.
Two years have passed, but Bahaghari National LGBT Organization continues to #RememberJennifer. We remember because Jennifer’s fate is ominously reminiscent of the violence that many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Filipinos face because this system treats our rights like shit.
We remember because apart from the daily violence that LGBTQ Filipinos are faced with, we are further put in harm’s way by lopsided military agreements between the US and the Philippines like the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). As one of the vulnerable sectors of our society, we are first to get victimized by predatory wars and unjust military agreements. Pemberton’s presence in Subic Bay was made possible because their unit was on rest & recreation—an activity that, to women and LGBTQs who live in communities like it, has become synonymous to unconstrained exploitation and abuse.
We remember because the legal battle that ensued after Jennifer’s body was found showed how easily US soldiers can skirt liability in our justice system. For the entire duration of Pemberton’s detention, he was kept under the custody of the US military. The Philippine government, to whom jurisdiction of Pemberton’s case is vested by law, still had to “request” the US government for Pemberton’s custody.
The trial itself was a mockery. The United States, despite branding itself as a champion of LGBTQ rights, conveniently used the “trans panic” defense to justify Pemberton’s crime— and successfully. In the end, he was convicted of homicide, the penalties for which are less than that of a murder conviction. To add insult to this injustice, Pemberton was never put in a regular jail for criminals. Following his conviction, he was put in a special cell in Camp Aguinaldo. Currently, there is reason to suspect that he is not being detained there anymore as any attempt to visit him is refused by Philippine authorities.
We remember because the injustice against Jennifer was not committed against her alone, but to all LGBTQ Filipinos who have been victimized by violence. We remember because when Pemberton dunked Jennifer’s head on the toilet, he plunged along with it our dignity as Filipino people and our sovereignty as a nation.
We remember, because we vow to continue calling on the government to put an end to State-sanctioned and -permitted violence against LGBTQs. We ask the Duterte government to go beyond scathing remarks against the US, and junk VFA and EDCA immediately. Instead of putting our lives and security on the line, the government must ensure that our security is being protected and our rights are promoted.
There can be no real justice for Jennifer for as long as the same system that killed her remains to exist. We encourage other freedom-loving Filipinos to remember Jennifer by joining in our calls. Let us build communities where LGBTQ people are loved and cared for, and can live free from violence, discrimination and all forms of oppression. Let us imagine a country that is genuinely free—free from US or any other foreign intervention. Let us participate in the struggle for national sovereignty until we attain its concrete realization.
Justice for Jennifer!
Stop Violence against LGBTQs!
Junk VFA and EDCA!
Jail Pemberton in Bilibid!
Fight for National Sovereignty!