The case has also gathers massive criticism over a bilateral agreement between the government of the Philippines and the US government that allows an accused US military serviceman to be kept under the custody of US whenever he committed a crime in the Philippine territory until proceedings are completed.
Some parties wants the abolition of the VFA, but some has suggested to show the pros and cons of it, is it really necessary for the welfare and security of our country or is the abolition of it beneficiary to some or is it just our hard feelings that urges us since the victim is our ‘kababayan’?
Above all, Laude is said to be a “Hate Crime” victim. Speculations about his death came out, but there are more questions than answer in the first preliminary investigation as the suspect Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton didn’t show in the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office last October 21, 2014.
A visiting forces agreement (VFA) is an agreement between a country and a foreign nation to have a military forces visiting in a host nation as well as visiting forces. Typically VFA, is mainly concerned with the legal issues associated with military individuals and property such as the entry and exit into the country, tax liabilities, postal services, or employment terms for host-country nationals, but the most contentious issues are civil and criminal jurisdiction over the visiting forces.
For civil matters, VFAs provide for how civil damages caused by the forces will be determined and paid. Though criminal issues may vary, the typical provision in U.S. VFAs is that U.S. military courts will have jurisdiction over crimes committed either by service member against another service member or by a service member as part of his or her military duty, but the host nation will retain jurisdiction over other crimes.
Meanwhile, the VFA has become a major political issue in the many host nations, crimes allegedly committed by the visiting forces member such as robbery, murder or sex crimes and other heinous crimes can be defined differently between the two nations.
Since 1992, BK-2002-1 series is the 16th military exercises conducted in the country which was also specifically designed to counter terrorism. Its main objective is to improve the operational readiness of the armed forces of both countries in combating terrorism and enhancing the inter-operability by exchanging trainings and techniques.
On training, the Balikatan has completed and 3,257 EP participants. About 159 training sessions were initiated by the unit commander and their respective US ARSOF advisers. Most of the trainings were on rifle marksmanship, land navigation and life saving techniques. These were conducted to improve the individual skills of the soldiers and enhance their capability to shoot, move and survive in combat environment. The improvement is shown in the number of successful combat operation that have been conducted in the six months since it started.
The civil military operation has distributed about US$ 334,000 worth of medical supplies and materials to Basilan and Zamboanga with the help of International Organizations (IOs), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Private Volunteers Organizations (PVOs) through the Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) which was conducted in the thirty-three barangays and treated at least 10, 469 people. In addition about US $4 million worth of construction materials and supply contracts were allocated to support the civil engineering projects in Basilan.
In the early years of Balikatan, it did not gain much attention and criticism from the media, politicians and civil society groups despite its implications to national sovereignty and violation of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which, prescribes the presence of foreign vessels and troops in the country. However the intensity of controversy and public criticism escalated further when the exchange military exercises shifted in orientation from joint training exercises to counterinsurgency in September 2002 after the 9-11 attack in the US.
The hate crime also known as bias-motivated crime is usually a violent, prejudice motivated crime that occurs when a perpetrators targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group. Incident may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse like insults, offensive graffiti or letters that are not limited to ethnicity, gender identity, language, nationality, physical appearance, religion and sexual orientation.
The U.S. Department of Justice defines hate crime as “the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.”
Hate crime is a serious societal problem, the FBI reported 7,722 incidents of hate crimes in 2006, of which about 52 percent were directed at people because of their race, religion, sexual orientation and nationality.
People commit hate crimes for many reasons such as; they are ignorant about people who are different from themselves; they need to be able to look down on others in order to compensate for their own low self-esteem and they have been brutalized themselves and therefore see brutalizing others as fair game.
At the University of California, Los Angeles, psychologist Edward Dunbar have done a study examining from a clinical forensic perspective of what drives hate-crimes perpetrators. He profiled about 550 perpetrators, examining such factors as motivation, childhood histories and levels of pathology.
They have found out that those who commit hate crimes were not mentally ill in the traditional sense in fact they were not diagnosed with schizophrenic or manic depressive. What they share in common is a high level of aggression and antisocial behavior.
These people were not psychotic, but they are consistently very troubled, very disturbed, very problematic members of our community who pose a huge risk for future violence. In the study Dunbar notes that childhood history of these offenders show high levels of parental or caretaker abuse and use of violence to solve family problems. "People who have had painful experiences and no opportunities to heal tend to be more hostile in general, and they more easily channel their hostility toward groups the society is also against”, Dunbar added.
Hate crimes perpetrators often starts with smaller incidents and moving up to a more serious ones. They are also more likely to deliberate on and plan their attacks than those who commit more spontaneous crimes.
The Laude Murder case
According to a witness account in a senate inquiry last October 22, 2014 Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton did not know that Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude was a transgender woman when they first met for the first time on October 11, 2014 at a disco bar in Olongapo City.
According to Mark Clarence Gelviro alias “Barbie,” he and Laude were having iced tea inside the Ambyanz Disco Bar when they saw the group of Pemberton enter the establishment. Barbie added that Pemberton was friendly but he appeared tipsy, he also thought that they were real woman.
Laude and Pemberton agreed to leave the bar and go to Celzone Lodge together with Barbie. When they arrived at the lodge, Barbie had joined the two inside Room 1 for a few minutes. After he left the two, he meet an acquaintance and agreed to go with him in another room.
After 30 minutes, Barbie said that the cashier lodge informed him that Laude was found unconscious. The lodge cashier, Elias Galamos stated that he saw Pemberton walk out of the room and leave the lodge less than an hour after they’ve checked in.
He added that Pemberton left the door open, prompting him to check if there was somebody inside. He closed the door when he have noticed that the room was still occupied.
After 30 minutes he returned to check the remaining guest and nobody answered him. It was then that time that he have decided to open the room, discovering the motionless body of laude slumped at the toilet bowl.
Speculations had also arises that Laude is a sex worker but Michelle Laude, Jennifer’s older sister has dismissed the insinuations that Jennifer is a sex worker in the senate inquiry.
The Laude case is very complicated that the case is not just an ordinary murder case it is linked to four sensitive cases, the first is the gender orientation of Laude, she is a transgender woman, second the controversy had fuel up the abolition of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the US government and ours and the third is the prostitution issue as there is an speculation that Laude is a sex worker and lastly she is brutally battered to death which has a more deeper cause—she is a hate crime victim.
All these four elements adds a deeper implication to the case, that this is not just about an issue of the sovereignty of the country towards the accused US serviceman but it is also a question on how the country will again handle a situation like this next to Nichole which is also a rape victim by a member of the VFA. Secondly, how will the judicial system in the country promise a fair game of trial towards a transgender woman amidst the fact that the foundations of all the laws in the country is bounded only to the two stereotypes.
The growing clamor for justice arises especially in the LGBT community. In a country that seems mature enough to accept and respect the members of the third sex it is quite ironical that the media in the country either on the print nor in the broadcast urges that “Jennifer” is just an alias, that Laude’s real name is Jeffrey. These tagging makes the case more complicated to the point that the media is somewhat pointing that if Laude is not a transgender woman there will be no drama scene like this—that being transgender is the root of this crime.
The country is again undergoing his own trial, a judgment in which his own people is the court judge. The blind folded woman which is the symbol for justice sees no gender preference nor race to give her trials and decisions. A crime has its equivalent penalty and the perpetrator must be penalized in accordance and compliance with the law. In this case the jurisdiction and custody should reside with the Philippine government as murder is a heinous crime and it is committed in our territory.
The sympathy of the Filipino nation pours towards the Laude family, but let’s take a look at the deeper part of the story, yes murder is a heinous crime and one who have committed it must be penalized. But the cry of some for the abolition of the VFA must be re-read and re-think as much as ten times. The government must show a proof whether there are more advantages nor disadvantages in VFA agreement. Who is the least beneficiary or who is benefited the most?
On the other hand what really drives Pemberton to commit such act? We cannot disregard the fact that he was also a victim, he was actually the first victim in this case. He was allegedly deceived that Jennifer is a woman.
The seek for justice may takes time—so much time and the fight is still long for the family to claim their justice. There is still a chance for the real story to come out, as Pemberton didn’t air his side on what really drives him to kill Laude.
Republic of the Philippines-United States of America Visiting Forces Agreement: Balikatan Exercises By: Col Samuel Narcise, Philippine Army