ANGELES CITY – Filipino-Americans in the US launched a Facebook account calling for justice for Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, a transgender Filipino allegedly killed by a US Marine inside a motel in Olongapo City over the weekend.
They also scheduled a rally in front of the Philippine consulate in New York City on Tuesday.
As of yesterday morning, the Facebook account had 192 followers who said they would attend the rally, while 32 said they were not sure. It said 2,300 people were invited to the gathering.
The account, which bore the photo of Laude, said the rally was to be hosted by one Irma Bajar and seven others.
“We are outraged by the killing of Jennifer Laude, 26, a transgender Filipino woman who was murdered by a United States soldier in Olongapo City, Philippines. We are holding an action to call for a thorough investigation and demand to assert the country’s laws and have the suspect face Philippine court,” said the Facebook account.
It also called for the immediate junking of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which, they said, “has been proven to not protect the rights of the Filipino people but are in favor of protecting US troops and its imperialist power.”
The account said the rally was being organized by the Bayan Queer Caucus, Gabriela New York and Barangay New York-LGTBQ Pin@ys.
It listed the rally speakers as Geena Rocero, Chelle Lhuiller, Noel Bordador, Tanya Asapansa Walker, Armani MK Teighor “and other members and allies of the LGBTQ community.”
The comments include one from a former US Marine named Ramon Mejia, who said: “I can not help but feel anger and sadness knowing that I was part of an institution that destroys people. I still carry in the back of my mind the ingrained motto taught to us upon entering the Marines…‘Once a Marine, always a Marine...’
“I will work to bring awareness (of) the crimes of the US military. I stand in solidarity with the people of the Philippines and seek justice for Jennifer and all victims of US militarism,” he added.
Lee Fiel Yao expressed sadness, saying Jennifer was her classmate in elementary and high school in Leyte.
Laude was found naked and lifeless inside a bathroom of the Celzone Lodge last Saturday.
Based on the initial investigation of the Olongapo police, Laude’s neck was pressed down on the toilet seat, while her head was shoved into the toilet bowl.
Police are now looking at two motives behind the killing. One, the foreigner could have found out that Laude was a transgender. The other theory is that Laude could have tried to steal from the foreigner.
Luz Francess Chua of the Women’s Celebration Conference suggested the suspect might have killed Laude because he was surprised to discover that he was attracted to a transgender and might also be gay.
“In the case of Laude, was the killer afraid of his own ghost? Did he discover that he too is a transgender because he was about to have a relationship with a guy?” Chua remarked.
She believed many people go through different levels of homophobia and discriminate against those who belong to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
She added that their organization is against all forms of violence. “We believe in equality. We believe in removing all forms of discrimination and violence and subjugation. What happened to Jennifer is an example of inequality. Why did you kill someone? Was it because she was weak and had no capacity to protect herself?”
Lawmakers joined the condemnation over the killing of Laude.
Sen. Loren Legarda said the government should ensure that justice is served.
Under the VFA, the custody of any US personnel who committed a crime in the Philippines shall remain with US military authorities if they so request “from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”
Sen. Nancy Binay, for her part, said Laude’s death “is a painful reminder that hate crimes towards our LGBT community continue despite efforts to halt discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.” Binay also echoed calls in asking the government to ensure justice will be served for Laude.
She also joined calls for the government to assert jurisdiction over the suspect, identified as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton.
“(The incident) should strongly prompt the Aquino administration to prioritize Jennifer’s case and assert jurisdiction over its investigation,” she said.
Binay also supported calls for the government to assert its stand to gain custody of Pemberton to ensure that the suspect will be brought to justice.
“This is not the first time US military servicemen committed offenses in Philippine soil,” she said.
Binay said the crime is another challenge for the administration to stand for the Filipino people.
“Ever since, hands are tied when it comes to demanding custody under the Visiting Forces Agreement to give justice to Jennifer,” Binay said.
Sen. Bam Aquino, on the other hand, pushed for the imposition of heavier penalties for hate crimes against the LGBT community.
“Hate crimes against the LGBT sector and other minority groups have no place in a civilized society. We should impose heavier penalties so that these discriminatory and inhumane acts will be eradicated,” Aquino said. – With Christina Mendez, Evelyn Macairan, Perseus Echeminada