The World March of Women – Pilipinas, Ganda Filipinas and the lawyer of Jennifer Laude’s family underscored the irony of the court order to release US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton when the country is about to commemorate the removal of the US bases.
“The 16th of September 1991 was a proud moment in our history as a sovereign nation,” according to WMW – Pilipinas. Even after the urging of then President Corazon Aquino to renew the RP-US Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace, twelve (12) senators rejected the proposed agreement which would have given another 10 years to American control over Subic Naval Base. This year’s commemoration of that historic event will now be marred by the recent hasty decision of the Olongapo regional trial court to release Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton owing to his alleged ‘good conduct’ without having fully served his sentence.
This puts into question our government’s ability to defend its own citizens vis-à-vis foreign power in our own territory, according to the feminist grassroots movement, WMW-Pilipinas.
On December 1, 2015, Pemberton was sentenced from six (6) to twelve (12) years in prison for homicide after killing transwoman Jennifer Laude on October 11, 2014, with Laude’s non-disclosure of her gender identity supposedly a mitigating factor. He has been serving this sentence in a private facility within Camp Aguinaldo and not in National Bilibid Prison where individuals who committed such crime should be. This facility is supposedly under the jurisdiction of the US government through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) passed by the Philippine Senate in 1999 and operationalized in 2014 when President Benigno Aquino III signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
“That the Motion for Release based on alleged good conduct was filed only in July 2020, the hearing on the motion happening on August 26th, and the order for release given on September 1st while Laude’s lawyer, Virginia Lacsa Suarez, was only about to file her opposition, clearly shows how fast our own court and agencies, namely the Bureau of Correction which endorsed the motion, can act in the service of a foreign power and not in the interest of the Filipino people,” said Ana Maria Nemenzo, National Coordinator of WomanHealth Philippines.
For Laude’s family and lawyer, what happened is clearly an injustice. “The Order of Release has no material basis at all. By his own motion, and invoking the VFA, he was already given the privilege of serving his sentence solo and comfortably in a specially-made facility in Camp Aguinaldo. Thus, his conduct was never put to test as he has never joined other convicts. Good conduct is not a matter of right. It is a privilege subject to the presentation of proof and recommendation of actual good conduct. Otherwise, this is subject to abuse and can be circumvented easily,” said lawyer Suarez.
Jean Enriquez, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP) said that “This court order will dissuade victim-survivors of violence among us from pursuing justice, since privileged perpetrators will be protected in Camp Aguinaldo and their sentence commuted.” For the victim-survivors of violence and the LGBTQIA+ community, that perpetrators like Pemberton could evade our own laws further instills uncertainty and doubt if they can achieve justice.
“This is a tragic reminder of how little trans lives truly matter not only in the US but as well as in its former colonies,” said Naomi Fontanos, Executive Director of Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas. “It is ironic that Pemberton’s early release is happening at a time when the US is going through a reckoning with its racist history,” Fontanos lamented. “Pemberton’s early release is proof of the power of white supremacy institutionalized through America’s imperialistic military that has destroyed the many lives of people of color including the lives of trans women of color like Jennifer Laude,” she further said. “Pemberton & the violent military institution he represents should be reminded that without justice, there will be no peace,” added Fontanos.
“Pemberton’s early release is an injustice to Jennifer Laude, to the women, LGBTQIA+, and allies, who fought tooth and nail for his conviction,” echoed Judy Afan Pasimio of LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights). “This is evidence that the government’s exclamations against the US and the VFA are hollow and will protect no Filipino women against abuse and crime from foreign visitors,” Pasimio said.
“Such infringement on our sovereignty can only be prevented if we reject treaties such as the Visiting Forces Agreement that continually allows powers like the United States to have their way in our own land,” declared WMW-Pilipinas.
According to the women and trans groups, such travesty of justice against the LGBTQIA+ community and victim-survivors of sexual assault, rape, and other forms of violence can only be stopped if our courts and the government uphold the law to genuinely protect them from perpetrators and criminal.
Other members of WMW-Pilipinas include Bagong Kamalayan Prostitution Survivors’ Collective, Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA), Foundation for Media Alternative (FMA), KAISA KA, Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), Partido Manggagawa – Women, SARILAYA, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) – Women, Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB).
The groups will hold an online rally tomorrow, September 4, 2020 at 3-4PM to protest the fast-tracked release order in favor of the convicted killer of transwoman Jennifer Laude.
It will be aired on the facebook pages of World March of Women – Pilipinas, GANDA Filipinas, Justice for Jennifer Laude, CATW-AP, LILAK, Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE) and others.
Naomi Fontanos, 09266700411
Jean Enriquez, 09778105326
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