OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines – A transgender woman met an untimely demise Sunday and the suspect is a US Marine who's in the Philippines for the military exercises between the country and the United States.
Katerina Francisco reports.
Photo by Jose Del/Rappler
Jeffrey Laude owned her identity as a transgender woman.
Jennifer to friends, they called her Ganda, or beautiful.
Family and friends say it wasn't just her looks that earned her the nickname.
BOBBY SNEIDER, FRIEND OF JEFFREY LAUDE: Simple lang si Ganda, gusto nya maging masaya ang mga tao sa paligid nya. Napaka-confident nya in terms sa pagiging transgender nya, wala nang questions asked, talagang happy siya sa life na yun.
(Ganda was simple. She wanted everyone around her to be happy. She was confident being a transgender person. No questions asked, she was happy living that life.)
MARILOU LAUDE, SISTER OF JEFFREY LAUDE: Kapatid ko mabait, mapagbigay, hindi madamot. Actually siya nagpapadala sa mother namin sa Leyte. Masasabi nating breadwinner siya.
(Jeffrey was kind and selfless. She used to send money to our mother in Leyte. You could say she was the family breadwinner.)
On Saturday, Laude was found dead in a bathroom at a hotel in Olongapo City.
The injuries on her neck suggested she had been strangled.
Witnesses claim the suspect was a US Marine participating in military exercises between the Philippines and the United States.
On Tuesday, police identified the suspect as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton.
The question now... will the Philippines get custody of the US soldier?
In 2005, Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was accused of raping a Filipina.
He was tried by a Philippine court, but held under US custody because of a provision in the Visiting Forces Agreement or VFA.
The Philippines says it wants custody over Pemberton.
GREGORIO CATAPANG, ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES CHIEF: I think the ship is still on hold and hopefully they will surrender the identified soldier that is allegedly involved in that incident.
Laude's sister just wants to make sure the killer won't get away.
MARILOU LAUDE, SISTER OF JEFFREY LAUDE: Hindi po dahilan na dayuhan siya eh ipawalang bahala na lang kumbaga di bigyan pansin dahil dayuhan at pinaslang bakla. Maging fair po sana di one sided kasi dayuhan. Baka yung mga nasa kinakaualuan dun pumanig sa kabila kaysa tulungan kababayang pinaslang.
(Just because he’s a foreigner doesn’t mean this death shouldn’t be given notice, that he was a foreigner who killed a gay person. Let’s be fair, don’t be one-sided. I fear officials might support the other side instead of helping their fellow Filipino.)
The Commission on Human Rights is conducting its own investigation on the case because Laude belongs to a vulnerable sector of society.
KATERINA FRANCISCO, REPORTING: Will this lead to another battle for custody of the US Marine suspected of the murder? Some groups are renewing their call to repeal the VFA, but Laude's family wants just one thing: justice.
Katerina Francisco, Rappler, Olongapo.
Note: An earlier version of this transcript identified the Filipina in the 2005 rape case as Nicole. This has been amended in line with the video report.
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