FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 1, 2015

Reference: Rhonda Ramiro, BAYAN-USA Vice Chair, vc@bayanusa.org

Guilty Verdict in Pemberton Trial Still Allows U.S. to Get Away with Murder

“Today, a Philippine court ruled that Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton is guilty of homicide, but both Pemberton and U.S. imperialism are still getting away with murder in the Philippines,” said Jessica Antonio, Secretary General of BAYAN-USA, in response to the highly-anticipated verdict in the trial of the U.S. Marine charged with murdering Filipina trans woman Jennifer Laude on October 11, 2014 in Olongapo City, Philippines. Pemberton was charged with murder, but the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Judge Roline Gines-Jabalade convicted Pemberton of homicide and sentenced him to serve six-to-twelve years in a Philippine prison and pay the equivalent of $95,000 to the Laude family.

“The fact that Judge Gines-Jabalde declared Pemberton guilty of the lesser charge of homicide rather than the original charge of murder shows that she bought into Pemberton’s transphobic argument that he panicked when he found out Jennifer was transgender. This is an affront to Jennifer and to trans women worldwide who are increasingly experiencing violent attacks,” said Antonio.

The U.S. Embassy released a statement noting “that the Olongapo Regional Trial Court Branch 74 has reached a decision in the case of Lance Corporal Pemberton,” and that the U.S. would “proceed in full compliance with the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).” Antonio commented by replying, “Empty promises can’t erase the injustices of the past and are no substitute for justice today.  The U.S. must stop using the VFA to shield Pemberton and instead immediately turn over the convicted murderer to the Philippine authorities to serve his sentence.”

“By refusing to turn over Pemberton to Philippine authorities even after his sentencing by a court of law, the U.S. is making a mockery of the Philippine legal system and our national sovereignty,” said Antonio.  “If that isn’t sufficient proof that the VFA needs to be terminated immediately and that further negotiations on the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement must be suspended, I don’t know what is,” said Antonio.

“This insult to Philippine sovereignty is no surprise, given the history of U.S. militarization in the Philippines.  It also exemplifies exactly why Filipinos are opposed to the VFA and EDCA. Throughout his entire term, President Aquino has done nothing but bend over backwards to accommodate US military interests.  Any presidential candidate in the upcoming 2016 elections who is serious about protecting Philippine sovereignty will need to prioritize ending these ridiculously lopsided agreements or risk walking the same incompetent and subservient path as Aquino,” said Antonio.

“BAYAN-USA joins the chorus of voices worldwide demanding Justice for Jennifer. We urge our members and allies to join local actions calling for genuine Justice for Jennifer and all trans women, an end to transmisogyny and US militarization, and the termination of the VFA and EDCA,” ended Antonio.

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BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 20 progressive Filipino organizations in the U.S. representing youth, students, women, workers, artists, and human rights advocates. As the oldest and largest overseas chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a center for educating, organizing, and mobilizing anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org.