Manila, Philippines: Akbayan Partylist Chairperson Risa Hontiveros today demanded the United States government to surrender the US serviceman accused of killing Jennifer Laude, a transgender Filipina, to Philippine authorities pending the joint investigation of Jennifer’s death by the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Philippine National Police.
In a letter (see attached copy) addressed to Philip S. Goldberg, US Ambassador to the Philippines, Hontiveros said it was distressing to note that despite the fact that Laude had been killed on Philippine soil; the primary suspect in her death is currently detained on US territory, specifically the warship USS Peleliu, as reported in the Marine Corps Times.
Subic killing outside of PHL-US military activities
“It must be emphasized that at the time Jennifer was killed, the perpetrator’s presence at the scene of the crime, a lodge in Olongapo City, can in no way be construed as being related to the official activities of your country’s armed forces,” Hontiveros said in the letter.
“For this reason, Philippine law should be made to apply to this case in accordance with the generally-accepted principle of international law which states that a government is sovereign within its own territorial boundaries,” Hontiveros added.
Keeping Pemberton is a betrayal of Obama’s commitment to LGBT principles
Hontiveros said it is imperative that the US government ensure that PFC Joseph Scott Pemberton is transferred from the USS Peleliu to Philippine soil and placed under the custody of Philippine authorities.
She said keeping PFC Pemberton outside the reach of the Philippines’ legal system is a betrayal of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) principles that the Obama administration claims to espouse.
“President Barack Obama has even issued a presidential memorandum (International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons dated December 6, 2011) directing all agencies of your government operating outside the United States to ensure that US diplomacy and foreign assistance protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” Hontiveros said.
“As such, keeping the accused on board the USS Peleliu is the opposite of the very LGBT principles that the Obama administration claims to embrace. More so, putting the suspect in a US ship, which forms a part of their sovereign territory and which is capable of leaving the port where it is docked at a moment’s notice, reduces the confidence of the Philippine LGBT community that the investigation being conducted will be fair and impartial, and that her killer will be made answerable for the hate crime which led to her death,” Hontiveros added.
Hate crime as defined by US law
In the letter, Hontiveros also stressed that considering the circumstances, it cannot be ruled out that Jennifer was killed because of her transgender status, an offense that the US government has seen fit to specifically prohibit and punish as a “hate crime.”
The former Akbayan lawmaker said ‘hate crime” as defined by the US Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 is “a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person.”
“In the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the first US federal law to extend legal protections to transgender people, it is expressly stated that a prominent characteristic of a violent crime motivated by bias is that it devastates not just the actual victim and the family and friends of the victim, but frequently savages the community sharing the traits that caused the victim to be selected,” Hontiveros explained.
“The US government cannot be faithful in addressing hate crimes committed by its citizens and other people in its territories and yet wantonly turn a blind eye to the same crimes done by its citizens in other lands. If the US government is truly committed to this cause and in upholding and defending LGBT rights, it should immediately surrender the suspect to Jennifer’s killing to Philippine authorities,” Hontiveros said.