With the release of the guilty verdict of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton for the death of Jennifer Laude, GABRIELA USA – which rallied outside of the Olongapo Regional Trial Court with GABRIELA Philippines and BAYAN Philippines, demanding the conviction of Pemberton as well as the immediate termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – lamented that the result is “small yet insufficient conviction.”
Pemberton was found guilty of homicide, considered a lesser offense than murder, and sentenced to serve only six to 12 years in prison, and ordered to pay the Laude family $95,000.
“The guilty verdict for Pemberton’s crime is a small victory yet insufficient as his guilty conviction was for the crime of homicide instead of murder. GABRIELA USA members strongly believe that Pemberton is culpable for the murder of Jennifer Laude, and for the facade of ‘trans panic’ to absolve him of his crime is despicable and inexcusable,” said Valerie Francisco, chairperson of GABRIELA USA. “His transphobia does not justify the brutal transphobic violence that ended Jennifer’s life. He is guilty of murder.”
Meanwhile, US Marines refuse to give up custody of Pemberton and turn him over to Philippine authorities, “an outright disregard for the respect of the Philippine justice system and an affront to Philippine sovereignty.”
The Laude case has had significant implications on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and questions have yet again been raised in Philippine Congress and Senate regarding the VFA in light of the Laude case.
Incidentally, December 4 also marks the ninth year since the guilty verdict of US serviceman Daniel Smith, another American serviceman convicted for raping “Nicole” in 2006.
“Jennifer Laude. Nicole. Countless others suffer under unequal agreements like the EDCA. It is unconstitutional and it has and will continue to negatively impact Filipino women, children, and LGBTQ people,” Tina Shauf, GABRIELA USA mass campaigns officer said.
“As long as unequal policies and agreements exist between the US and Philippines, it is inevitable that there will be more Nicoles and Jennifers. GABRIELA USA will not forget that countless Filipino women and children have been negatively impacted by US military occupation, and we say enough is enough. We demand an end to US occupation over our land and bodies! Justice for Jennifer Laude and all trans women! End transmisogyny now! US Troops out of the Philippines! Junk the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and scrap the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)!”
GABRIELA USA calls for the eradication of the EDCA and unequal agreements like the Visiting Forces Agreement putting the lives of Filipinos like Jennifer Laude at risk daily. With the Philippine elections approaching in May 2016, GABRIELA USA is urging presidential candidates to have a strong platform to protect Philippine national sovereignty and put an end to agreements and policies that bow down to US imperialist interest.
“The only way the Filipino people can truly achieve victory is if the Philippine government upholds national sovereignty by immediately terminating the VFA and EDCA,” Francisco ended.