MANILA, Philippines – The government said it is committed to securing justice for transgender woman Jennifer Laude, who was killed in Olongapo City in Zambales, allegedly by an American serviceman.
"The Philippine government is intent on getting justice for Jennifer," said Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte in an interview with state-run Radyo ng Bayan on Saturday, October 18.
Valte also mentioned that a subpoena had already been served on suspect Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is being held onboard the USS Peleliu, one of two United States Navy ships that docked in Subic for PH-US military exercises. (READ: US takes custody of suspect in transgender woman's slay)
But the Laude family laments that the government is "slow" in acting on the murder case. On Saturday, reports said the family attempted but failed to step inside the USS Peleliu to themselves deliver the murder complaint against Pemberton. (READ: Family of Olongapo slay victim calls for justice)
"Unfortunately, there is a process that we have to follow in terms of dealing with criminal complaints relating to US servicemen here under joint exercises. So we have to follow the processes, but we assure [the people] that we are committed to get justice for Jennifer," Valte said.
Valte also said government is being careful in issuing statements, because anything that they say at this point "may be construed differently."
"We understand the grief and we can only imagine the grief that the Laude family is going through because of the death of Jennifer. And I know that there are also some groups reaching out to them in order to help them, so let's leave it at that," she said.
On Saturday, October 11, Laude was found dead in a bathroom at a hotel in Olongapo City. A witness said she was last seen checking in the hotel with a "male white foreigner," later identified as Pemberton.
An autopsy report revealed that Laude died due to "asphyxia by drowning." The Olongapo city police also reported that Laude's murder was a "crime of hatred." (READ: Remembering 'Ganda': The tragedy of Jennifer Laude)
Following the murder, various groups called for the review or even abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the recent Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the US. (READ: Is custody provision in VFA fair? Palace mum)
The Laude family tapped human rights lawyer Harry Roque, who has been vocal in his opposition to EDCA, to serve as their counsel.
Also on Saturday, Vice President Jejomar Binay visited Jennifer's wake in Olongapo City, and condoled with her family.
"Unang-una, (inaabot ko ang) mensahe ng pakikiramay sa pamilya. Pangalawa, sana magawaran ito ng hustisya. Mayroong namatay na tao, kailangan mabigyan ng hustisya," Binay said.
(First, I extend my condolences to the Laude family. Second, I hope justice will be served. A person died, she must be given justice.) – Rappler.com