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Transfer of Pemberton to Bilibid sought after VFA termination

The killer of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, US serviceman Joseph Scott Pemberton, should be transferred to the New Bilibid Prison following the termination of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US.

Stop the special treatment.

The killer of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, US serviceman Joseph Scott Pemberton, should be transferred to the New Bilibid Prison following the termination of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US.

This is the call made by Atty. Harry Roque, who served as the legal counsel of the Laude family, at CNN Philippines’ The Source.

“I hope after the six month period, and the VFA has finally been terminated, that he will be finally moved to Muntinlupa where he belongs — together with the Ampatuans and other killers,” Roque was quoted as saying.

Pemberton was sentenced to six to 12 years in prison after he was found guilty in the 2014 murder of Laude, who was found lifeless in an Olongapo City motel room after a night out with Pemberton in October of that year. With her neck blackened with strangulation marks, Laude was found with her head rammed into a toilet.

To date, the American soldier is detained at the custodial center in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. And for Roque, even if this is pursuant to provisions of the 1998 military deal, this is a copout since the space is a “golden cage”.

Now with the notice of VFA termination on the table, Roque said Pemberton’s move to the state penitentiary should now be pursued.

“The only reason why he’s being kept in that golden cage is because of the VFA. Without the VFA, he should be treated like all other prisoners, convicted felons, and sent to Muntinlupa,” Roque said.

According to Ms Kate Montecarlo Cordova or the Association of Transgender People in the Philippines (ATP), “it does not bother me if he will be transferred to Bilibid after the cancellation of VFA if that is the right thing to do. Doing what is the right thing through legal means is upholding justice and righteousness. It is serving what is due both to the victim and to the perpetrator.”

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And in a statement provided to Outrage Magazine, Toni Gee Fernandez of the Mujer LGBT Organization, Inc. in Zamboanga in Mindanao said that they “commend… our national government for taking on the courage and strong political will to make a stand in terminating the VFA.”

But “this historic decision by the government gives rise to two very crucial questions (also affecting) the LGBTQIA community”: 1) Due to the termination, can the Philippines… finally exercise jurisdiction over any and all US military personnel for crimes committed within our territory? 2) If so, does this mean that Pemberton, the US military personnel convicted for the brutal murder of Jennifer Laude in 2014, be finally moved to the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City to continue serving the remainder of his sentence?

For Mujer LGBT Organization, Inc.: “It is high time that we let our laws take over those who deserve to be punished for what they did to our countrymen.”

Meanwhile, Ms Naomi Fontanos of GANDA Filipinas said that “we definitely welcome the abrogation of VFA in spite of the suspicious circumstances this has happened. If President (Rodrigo) Duterte is terminating the VFA just because his friend, Sen. Bato dela Rosa’s US visa was cancelled, then that is not an evidence-based policy decision. It is saddening that instead of prioritizing our country’s sovereignty, the decision to terminate the VFA is borne out of padrini politics, in which the highest leader of the land is cancelling a military agreement out of pique or being slighted by his friend’s US visa cancellation and not the negative effects of the policy of militarization of this government.”

Fontanos added that “it is also worrying that in its place, a VFA with China is being proposed, which is highly problematic given the West Philippine Sea dispute with China.It seems that Pres. Duterte is taking every possible opportunity to allow Chinese imperialism in our country. So he’s just simply replacing one imperialist power with another.”

In the end, for Fontanos, “of course we welcome the transfer of Pemberto to Bilibid if ever, but I doubt if that will ever happen. I hope the Jennifer Laude case will not be used as a bargaining chip in ironing our the creases of macho patriarchal geopolitical conflict.”

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