As the trial of US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, the 19-year-old suspect in the killing of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, is set to begin this week, the lead counsel of the Laude family, Atty. Harry Roque, once again reiterated that the family will not enter any agreement with the US.
Last March 10, during the pre-trial hearing of the case, the possibility of a plea bargain was raised. But the family and lawyers of the slain transgender stood firm during the media briefing afterwards, saying that they would not agree to a plea bargain and made it clear that they just want to see Pemberton go to jail.
“Nitong mga nakalipas na pre-trial, talaga namang puspusan ang pagpilit ng pamahalaan sa pamilya Laude na pumasok sa isang kompromiso sa bansang Estados Unidos. Pero lahat ay tinutulan at naninindigan kami na katarungan ang kailangan (In the past pre-trial (meetings), the government has been adamant in urging the Laude family to enter a compromise with the US. But we refused and stand by the belief that justice is what’s needed),” Roque said to Outrage Magazine.
Supposedly, even though the prosecution wants to expedite the trial, the Philippine government continues to urge the Laude family to enter an arrangement.
“Dapat simula na ‘yung pag-pi-prisinta ng mga ebidensya, pero kami ay nagkakaroon ng alinlangan, dahil malinaw ang posisyon ng Pilipinas na gusto nila na magkaroon ng plea bargain (The evidences should have already been presented, but we are having apprehensions because the position of the Philippines is clear that they want to have plea bargain),” Roque said.
He also said that this case will test how the Philippine government values the welfare of its citizens and how important the Visiting Forces Agreement is.
The Laude family continues to believe that when the case is over, they will be given justice. They also believe that this is not only a fight of the LGBT community, but of every Filipino.
And they just hope that the government will support them when the trial begins, rather than counter the efforts of the prosecution.
“Nasasaktan din ang pamilya doon sa mga ni-leak out, na sa tingin namin ay galing sa gobyerno, na ‘di umano ay humihingi sila ng P21 million. Ito ay pinapabulaan nila at itong walang kasunduan ngayon ay patunay na naninindigan sila na ang kanilang hiling ay katarungan. Dapat itigil na nila ang pagpilit sa pamilya Laude na pumasok sa isang kasunduan (The family was also hurt when the news was leaked, which we think also came from the government, that they’re asking for P21 million. This was denied by the family, and the fact that there’s no agreement now is proof that they remain steadfast in demanding justice. They should stop forcing the Laude family to enter any agreement),” Roque emphasized.
Although the country still lacks a law that can protect members of the LGBT community against hate crimes, he said that this shouldn’t hinder the Laude family to receive justice.
“Dahil si Jennifer ay isang miyembro ng LGBT (community), magiging isa itong qualifying circumstance to murder. Kasi nagpapakita ‘yan na ang pagpaslang ay hindi lamang paglabag sa karapatang mabuhay, kung hindi karaptan na rin sa right to privacy nung napatay (Because Jennifer was a member of the LGBT community, this becomes one of the qualifying circumstance to murder. Because this shows that gettig murdered is not only a violation of the right to life, but also the right to privacy of the one who was murdered),” Roque explained. “Lahat naman tayo ay may karapatan na pumili ng ating kasarian, kung sino ang gusto nating mahalin, at kung sino ang gusto nating makapiling (All of us have the right to choose our gender identity, who we choose to love, and who we want to spend our life with).”
The absence of a hate crime law, especially during times like these, “only highlights the importance of it, so perpetrators would be punished accordingly,” Roque said.
As the trial begins this week and is expected to last until September, Roque calls for the support of the LGBT community throughout the whole time.
“Dapat mas maging aktibo sa kasong ito ang mga LGBT; hindi namin nararamdaman ang presensya nila. Kung hindi sila maninindigan dito, baka sa susunod sila na ang magiging biktima, dahil na rin sa patuloy na pananatili sa ating bansa ng mga dayuhan, gaya ng Amerikano, na pinapalawak pa sa pamamagitan ng EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement). Panahon na na i-recognize na walang pwedeng manindigan sa interest ng mga Pilipino kung hindi ang ating mga kapwa Pilipino (The LGBT community should be active in this case; we are not feeling their presence. If they do not stand for this, they may become victims next, due to the continuing presence in our country of foreign powers, such as the US, further empowered by EDCA. It is high time to recognize no one will defend the rights of Filipinos but other Filipinos),” Roque ended.