Dozens of protesters burned the US flag yesterday night outside the US embassy in Manila demanding Washington hand over a marine suspected of murdering a transgender woman to Philippine authorities.
About 40 young activists waving red flags and shouting ‘US troops out now’ called for the scrapping of an agreement that allows the US to keep jursidiction of military personnel accused of committing crimes in the Philippines.
Corky Hope Marañan, spokesperson for Kapederasyon LGBT Sectoral Organization, said, ‘We call for a thorough investigation and swift justice, and warn the government that we will remain vigilant against efforts to cover-up the facts of the case and give special treatment to the suspected perpetrator who was identified as a United States soldier.’
Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton and three potential witnesses have been detained aboard the USS Peleliu warship while a joint Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Philippine National Police investigation is conducted.
The US embassy said it would cooperate with Philippine authorites and the USS Peleliu will stay in the country until the investigation is over. Five other ships also in the Philippines for joint military exercises have left.
Naomi Fontanos, executive director of Gender and Development Advocates Filipinas, said, ‘While we know that the suspect has already been detained aboard the USS Peleliu which is here for joint military exercises, we call on the U.S. Embassy to ensure that justice prevails in this case. The U.S. Embassy has been a vocal supporter of lesbian gay bisexual and transgender human rights in the Philippines and now, more than ever, is the time for them to step up and show how genuinely committed they are to fighting for social justice for LGBT Filipinos.
We are afraid that under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the US and the Philippines, the suspect might be able to use a gay or trans panic defense and go scot free.’
Manrara said, ‘We join the demand to assert the country’s laws and have the suspect face a Philippine court. We caution the government against engaging in another whitewash under the guise of implementing the Visiting Forces Agreement. We fear that the suspect will be another Daniel Smith who was given special treatment and escaped the Philippine justice system.’
Smith was a marine who was sentenced to life in prison for raping a Filipino woman after a night of drinking in 2005 in same city. A Philippine appeals court overturned his conviction in 2009.