A slap in Laude supporters’ face
We, women political prisoners at Camp Bagong Diwa, are outraged at the brazen mockery of Philippine sovereignty demonstrated by the ridiculous arrangement entered into by Philippine and US authorities regarding US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton’s incarceration.
Pemberton, who was convicted for the killing of a Filipino transgender woman in an Olongapo City motel in September 2014, has been sentenced to 6-12 years imprisonment and remanded to the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City by the court. Yet an impasse ensued, with Philippine and US authorities trying to come up with a solution that would let American interests prevail, yet save some face for Philippine sovereignty. The result: Pemberton has been allowed to return to his quarters in Camp Aguinaldo under the “supervision” of the Bureau of Corrections. This is actually a slap in the face of everyone who worked and struggled to attain justice for Jennifer Laude.
We condemn the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) for conferring special status on American soldiers like Pemberton who violate Philippine laws. Not too long ago, another US marine, Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, stayed at comfortable quarters within the US Embassy grounds instead of being detained in a regular jail while being tried for rape—also because of a lopsided provision in the VFA.
Now, with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, we can expect an even larger US military presence in the country and the greater likelihood of sexual and criminal abuse committed against Filipinos by US soldiers enjoying virtual impunity.
We also cannot help but express our disgust, comparing Pemberton’s privileged status to the wretched situation of political detainees who have been slapped with trumped-up charges by a regime that criminalizes political dissent. Although we have yet to be convicted, we are already suffering from many of the restrictions imposed on sentenced criminals and have to share cramped detention cells with others charged with common crimes.
Unlike Pemberton, who has the privilege of avoiding regular imprisonment while waiting for the entire judicial process to run its full course, those of us who have been sentenced are immediately brought to penitentiaries even while our unjust convictions are still on appeal.
For as long as this government kowtows to US imperialist dictates, Filipino victims of US military abuse can never hope to find real justice.
And for as long as a social system that persecutes those who fight for the rights of the oppressed and exploited prevails in this country, justice will always be perverted.
—MA. LOIDA MAGPATOC, consultant, National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and 11 OTHER FEMALE POLITICAL PRISONERS AT CAMP BAGONG DIWA, BICUTAN
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