Vigil for Jennifer Laude held outside LA Consulate

By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Oct. 23, 2014

LOS ANGELES – As the Laude case progresses, dozens lit candles outside the Los Angeles Philippine Consulate in honor of Jennifer Laude.

The battle against U.S. military presence and the fight for transgender rights met at candle light, as activists called for justice for Jennifer Laude – the transgender woman believed to have been killed in Olangapo by U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton earlier this month.

“This is a beautiful and historic movement,” said Nikole Cababa, BAYAN regional coordinator, “where diverse communities all across Los Angeles, one of the most diverse cities in the United States, are coming together to say U.S. militarization should not be in the Philippines.”

The killing has sparked an outcry calling for the end of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the U.S.

The activists claim provisions in the VFA may eventually deny justice to Laude.

Pemberton remains in U.S. custody inside Camp Aguinaldo, while other Marine witnesses have since left the Philippines.

“The four witnesses are gone, which is completely unreasonable,” said Cababa, “and on top of that, Pemberton is now getting VIP treatment in an AC room with a private bathroom. This is a criminal, so we’re actually really upset with the fact that a U.S. Marine, who was obviously the leading suspect in this case, is actually being treated with star treatment at a time when we know justice for Jennifer is really important right now.”

For activists, the Laude case is no longer just a Filipino issue, but rather an LGBT problem and an international issue over U.S. military presence in foreign countries.

“Certainly with militarization of the Asia-Pacific region it’s going to be happening a lot more,” said Patty Ahn Soobak, “but the U.S. has been throughout South Korea since the Korean War, and everywhere there have been military bases there have been all forms of gender violence that happen around the camps there.”

Earlier this week, as the Philippine Senate began investigating the case, President Aquino said it is not necessary to terminate the VFA.

Despite the president’s recent comments on keeping the VFA agreement, activists will continue to call for the junking of the VFA. Since it started last week, hundreds have already signed on to a petition calling for the junking of the VFA.

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