Family drops cremation plan for Jennifer Laude
OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines — The family of slain transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude has decided to drop an initial plan to cremate her remains before she is buried on Friday.
Harry Roque, the family’s lead lawyer, earlier appealed to Chief Prosecutor Emilie Fe de los Santos to ask the United States Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) if it would conduct an autopsy before the planned cremation of Laude, who was allegedly killed by US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton.
But De los Santos said she had no jurisdiction over the NCIS, prompting the family to abandon the cremation plan pending notice from the American agency.
Marilou Laude, the victim’s sister, said Jennifer would be buried at the Heritage Garden in Tabacuhan village after a 1 p.m. Mass at St. Columban Church.
Laude, 26, was found dead in the bathroom of a motel here on the night of Oct. 11, about an hour after she checked in with a foreigner, later identified as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the US Marine Corps.
Marilou, who filed a murder complaint against Pemberton in the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office on Oct. 15, said her family, in consultation with Roque, agreed that Laude’s remains would not be cremated.
Pemberton has not been seen in public since he was linked to Laude’s killing. He was first held on the American warship, the USS Peleliu, which was docked at Subic Bay, then was transferred to a makeshift detention cell jointly managed by the United States and the Philippine governments in the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, on Wednesday.
Pemberton did not show up at the preliminary investigation called by the prosecutor’s office here on Oct. 21 but was represented by his lawyers, Rowena Garcia Flores and Benjamin Tolosa Jr.
Flores, during the hearing, asked De los Santos that the defense be given up to Oct. 27 to study the complaint. She said she would inform the prosecutor’s office by Monday if Pemberton would file a counter-statement.
On Wednesday, the lawyers of the Laude family asked the city prosecutor to issue a subpoena directing Pemberton, through his lawyers and diplomatic channels, to appear in a clarificatory hearing on Nov. 5 so his fingerprints and DNA samples could be taken by personnel from the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is also investigating the killing of Laude.
It has also urged the establishment of a system of recording and reporting of cases of violence on the basis of a person’s perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.
In a statement, the agency said it sent regional investigators to Olongapo on Oct. 13 to do an independent investigation of Laude’s death.
“Interviews with the police and with the immediate family members were conducted, and continuous monitoring of the government’s action is being undertaken,” the CHR said.
The agency said it would also closely monitor the implementation of the bilateral Visiting Forces Agreement in relation to the Laude case, as it stressed that “justice should be accorded Laude, and that perpetrators should be made accountable.”
The CHR noted that the brutality of the killing has shown the vulnerability of women and transgender women to violence and abuse in a society marked by patriarchy and homophobia.
Citing data from the Philippine Hate Crime Watch, the CHR noted that more than 100 hate crimes have been reported from 1996 to 2011, but the agency has encountered difficulty in verifying and investigating the cases.
The CHR cited the victim’s “unwillingness” to pursue the case because of stigma and re-victimization; lack of support from the family; and lack of trust and confidence in the legal system.
The agency also urged the Philippine National Police, other investigative bodies and the press handling or reporting the case “to proceed with sensitivity.”
It pointed out that Laude had a right to her chosen identity, to dignity and non-discrimination.
“That Laude is a [transgender woman] should never affect the manner by which the state proceeds to hold the perpetrator accountable and should never be the basis of further revictimization and blaming,” the CHR said.
The CHR also reminded the government of its responsibility to deal with crimes committed on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, citing a United Nations report on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people.
“Laude’s right to life was violated, and as such it is the state’s obligation to hold the perpetrator to account as promptly as possible. This is especially so that this September 2014, the Philippines signed the UN Human Rights Council Resolution which expressed grave concern over violence committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” the CHR said. With reports from Julie M. Aurelio in Manila
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