On the 426 approved joint military activities:
How many Jennifers and Nicoles More?
The gruesome death of Jennifer Laude in the hands of alleged murderer Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton of the US Marine Corps coincided with the meeting of the US-RP Mutual Defence Board (MDB). The murder came right after the most recent Philippines-US amphibious landing exercise, Phiblex. Pfc. Pemberton is one of the 3,500 US marines who participated in the 12-day Phiblex 15.
It was already Phiblex 15 that just concluded and it is terrifying to learn that 426 more joint military activities of various categories are forthcoming. This is one of the resolutions in the recent MDB meeting. It is disgusting to know that the Philippine commander-in-chief, President Noynoy Aquino (PNoy) allowed the country’s representatives in the MDB to approve hundreds more joint military activities despite a recent crime against a Filipino by another soldier of the US Marines. This is gravely insulting to the people, especially to those opposing rising US militarism and increasing presence of US personnel and materiel in the Philippines.
WE, in KAISA KA, (Pagkakaisa ng Kababaihan para sa Kalayaan) vehemently condemn the brutal murder of transgender woman Jennifer Laude. Being a victim of a US Marines trooper raises Laude’s murder to a crime against the Filipino people. The suspected murderer, Pfc. Pemberton, should be detained in the country while being tried under Philippine laws.
This recent crime highlights again and puts under question the 1999 US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which is under protracted review since 2012, and the recently signed US-RP Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which is not yet enforced pending Supreme Court decision on its constitutionality. The main subject of both agreements is, the presence or stay in the country of US military forces (personnel, arms and equipments) and the continuing joint military activities of the armed forces of the USA and the Philippines.
Article 5 of the VFA particularly stipulates on the issue of jurisdiction over US military personnel who commit crime or legal liability not related with the pursuance of their duties while in the Philippines. The VFA grants the Philippines jurisdiction over the erring US military personnel. However, custody of the American soldier/s remains with the US government. Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton is now supposedly detained by his superiors in the warship USS Peleliu that is left docked in the former US naval base in Subic.
Furthermore, VFA stipulates that the resolution of the case must be done within one year otherwise the US is not anymore obliged to present the defendant in court. In other words, the Philippine government would have to seek the US government’s decision to transfer custody of the erring US soldier to the Philippines.
WE in KAISA Ka, like many others, fear that the handling of Pemberton’s case will fall in the same way of US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith who was accused of raping Suzette “Nicole” Nicolas in 2005. Smith was convicted and was confined for a few days in the Makati City Jail. He was taken away by US authorities and kept inside the US embassy until his case was settled after Nicole allegedly retracted.
The crime committed by Pemberton is heinous but its dimension is beyond itself. VFA and Philippine jurisdiction, i.e. sovereignty over a US soldier who committed crime in the country are the real issues. The case of Lance Cpl. Smith confirmed Philippine jurisdiction and sovereignty is not guaranteed by the VFA.
The USA, the number one military and economic power in the world, is continuously wielding its might not only over the Philippines but over many countries in the world. The Philippines, by its government’s subservience, serve as a US neo-colonial instrument and one of its bases in US’ projection of power over Asia-Pacific and the world.
The Philippines is designated by the US to play the role of hosting, on pivotal basis, increasing number of its military forces for the US rebalance strategy of deploying 60% of its naval forces in Asia-Pacific by 2020. This is the reason for EDCA and the seemingly permanent VFA. Under such situation many more crimes against Filipinos by US military personnel can be anticipated. But what is most disturbing is the Philippine government being an accomplice in the militarist-imperialist designs in the world and the Filipino people being dragged in the process.
Justice for Jennifer Laude! Justice for the Filipino people!
Stop US militarism!
Rescind EDCA! Abrogate VFA!