#JusticeForJennifer: Aquino gov’t lawyering for US soldier

What a shame. The Aquino government has again betrayed national sovereignty by lawyering for the US in the murder of transgendered woman Jennifer Laude.

The government did not make even the minutest effort to assert PH laws and right to custody of the suspect. It did not even bother to ask for the token “request” that is required of the US under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Under the VFA, “custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”

Instead, Malacanang spokesmen and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) immediately released statements automatically surrendering custody to the US.

The issue of custody is important as it was also the surrender of custody which weakened our position in the Daniel Smith case. Smith was convicted and initially jailed in the Philippines but was transferred to the US embassy by the DFA. The US was able to pressure the family of the victim Nicole to recant and then hurriedly whisked away Smith.

Currently, the Olongapo police is already having difficulty with the filing of charges because it does not have in its custody PFC Joseph Scott Pemberton. The issue of custody is a matter of national sovereignty and assertion of PH laws.

Instead of standing up for our sovereignty, the DFA saw the event as an opportunity to shamelessly defend the twisted VFA and “show that it works.” As if no one was murdered.

Worse, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has gone to the extent of defending the the suspect, lawyering for the US soldier, calling the crime a “crime of passion.” The AFP spokesman said the soldier may not have meant to murder the victim and that the people calling for justice are “over reacting.” What the F.

The police and the government have also resorted to victim-blaming by making statements insinuating that the victim may have deceived the perpetrator regarding being a transgendered woman and that Laude may have attempted to rob the suspect. These statement are just irresponsible and outrageous.

The murder of Jennifer adds to the long list of US military atrocities in Philippine soil. The number of sexual and other crimes committed by US military are bound to increase with the heightened presence of US soldiers under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which allows US military basing in the country.

Groups are calling for solidarity actions, rainbow assemblies and protests to fight for justice and national sovereignty.

We as a nation should demand that the US turn over Pemberton to the Philippine government. The US government should not be allowed to use the VFA as a mantle of immunity like what they did with the case of Daniel Smith.

The US has long been making a mockery Philippine sovereignty by shielding its personnel who have committed crimes in the country. In 2002, American soldier Reggie Lane shot peasant Buyong-buyong Isnijal. Three soldiers who participated in Balikatan in 2000 mauled a taxi driver. They were never held accountable for their crimes. For sure, many crimes have remained undocumented. Likewise, the US has not been made to account for its destruction of Tubattaha and its toxic waste dumping recently.

We should demand the end of US military presence in our country. EDCA, VFA and all the other unequal military treaties with the US should be junked immediately. All US military activities should be halted and US troops should be made to leave the country.

The Aquino government and its spokesmen should be shamed for selling out our sovereignty, betraying our people and being puppets of US imperialism.

Photo by Irma Bajar. Some rights reserved.

As originally posted on Blog Watch, Philippine Online Chronicles.