Note: the following is a statement by the progressive Filipino youth organization Anakbayan.
We strongly condemn the United States government for its refusal to surrender US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton to Philippine authorities in spite of his conviction for the gruesome killing of Filipina transgender Jennifer Laude. We likewise denounce the Aquino government for its complicity in Pemberton’s evasion of accountability for his crimes.
The Olongapo City Regional Trial Court verdict held Pemberton guilty of homicide and ordered his detention in the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City. Rather than respecting the court ruling, US escorts refused to give Pemberton to the Philippine National Police and returned him instead to the US detention facility in Camp Aguinaldo.
Even as we welcome the guilty verdict, we also call attention to the seemingly special treatment afforded to the US marine. Pemberton was convicted of homicide and not murder. The short sentence of 6 to 12 years imprisonment is not enough punishment when compared to the gravity of the crime. Citing Laude’s gender status as a mitigating circumstance to Pemberton’s offense is also an affront to the LGBT community.
But what is more appalling is the Aquino government’s complete obedience to its US puppet masters. Instead of taking the cudgels for the Laude family, the Department of Justice readily agreed to Pemberton’s return to Camp Aguinaldo. Aquino government officials also acceded to US demands that Pemberton’s final place of detention will still be discussed with US officials.
We fear that the agreement being cooked up by the Aquino government with the US government is part of a grand scheme to ultimately bring Pemberton out of the country akin to the case of US Lance Corporal Daniel Smith and his companions who were flown out of the country in spite of a guilty verdict for the Subic rape case.
This is not the first time that the US has shielded its military personnel who have committed crimes in the country. There was the shooting of peasant Buyong-buyong Isnijal by US soldier Reggie Lane in 2002 and the mauling of a taxi driver by 3 US soldiers during the 2000 Balikatan military exercises. Many more crimes have remained undocumented.
Invoking the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to ensure special treatment for Pemberton, the US once more blatantly violated Philippine laws. That American authorities can do this inside the premises of a Philippine court speaks much of the continuing stranglehold of US imperialism over the country and the puppetry of the Aquino government.
The VFA has made the attainment of genuine justice impossible for Filipinos victimized by US troops who are given special treatment while in the country. US military bases and troop presence in the Philippines has created the conditions for the perpetration of more crimes against Filipinos by US forces stationed in the country.
The fight to bring justice for Jennifer now requires the support of entire Filipino people in the face of the Aquino government’s brazen selling out of justice and sovereignty in favour of US imperial interests. We therefore call on everyone to assert the country’s national patrimony and sovereignty and not allow Pemberton to escape from the country.
We likewise demand for the end of US military troop presence in the country and the immediate junking of the VFA, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, as well as other unequal military agreements between the US and the Philippines.
We say no to special treatment: jail Pemberton in the Philippines. Justice for Jennifer Laude! Junk VFA! Junk EDCA! US troops out now! Down with US imperialism!