Laude case not reason to kill VFA – Belmonte
MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Monday said he is not in favor of abrogating the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) despite the killing of a Filipino transgender allegedly by a US Marine.
In an interview, Belmonte said the VFA should not be seen as the reason Jennifer Laude was killed by suspect Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton.
Belmonte said the bigger picture should be the country’s defense posture and not limited to the agreement that gave American troops visitorial powers despite the absence of their military bases here.
“I think the big picture has something to do with our defense posture, our position in the face of power structures in our part of the world. That definitely cannot be equated with the one incident wherein we don’t even know the facts of the incident,” Belmonte said.
Laude, whose real name was Jeffrey but went by the name Jennifer, checked in at the Celzone Lodge with a male Caucasian. She was later found dead on the floor hours later from strangulation, police said.
Pemberton was tagged as the suspect. He is held onboard the USS Peleliu while a joint Naval Criminal
Investigative Service and Philippine National Police investigation is ongoing.
Laude’s slay revived calls to review or scrap the VFA, which gives the Philippines jurisdiction over US troops who commit crimes in the country not linked to their official duties. But it also says custody over the Americans remain with the US government except on “extraordinary cases.”
This is not the first time a US soldier was accused of a crime while in service in the country.
US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was accused in the Subic rape case and was convicted by a lower court to 40 years imprisonment but an appeals court reversed the verdict after the victim “Nicole” retracted her statement.
Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc filed a joint resolution calling for the abrogation of the VFA, which they described as “pro-US and anti-Filipino character.”
“It is a big slap on the face of the Filipino nation and downright revolting that the government failed to arrest and take custody of Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the US Marine Corps, the suspect in the killing last Saturday of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude,” the lawmakers said in the resolution.
“This incident shows that VFA is unmistakably an affront to the State’s sovereign power to enforce its laws within its territory and makes a mockery of our justice system,” they said.
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