Militant LGBT group: EDCA ruling dampens Pemberton conviction

EDCA
Militant protesters stage a rally in front of the US Embassy against US military presence in the Philippines following the slay of transgender Jennifer Laude. Photo from Manila Bulletin (mb.com.ph)

A militant LGBT group condemned the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the legality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

In a statement, Bahaghari LGBT Organization said the military agreement between the Philippines and the United States only serves to affirm the rape of the country’s sovereignty.

“In upholding EDCA’s constitutionality not only did the Supreme Court affirmed the rape of our motherland, it also gave a thumbs up to the rape, abuse and murder of our people at the hands of US soldiers,” Bahaghari spokesperson Aaron Bonette said on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the constitutionality of EDCA, calling it an executive agreement, not a treaty, and saying the President can enter into an agreement on foreign military facilities and troops provided it would not allow the return of US military bases in the country.

The issue of US military presence remains contentious in the Philippines especially in light of rape and murder cases involving American soldiers visiting the country under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

In 2006, Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was convicted for the 2005 rape of a victim named “Nicole,” but he was eventually acquitted after the victim recanted her statement that she was raped while drunk.

In 2015, US Marine Joseph Pemberton was convicted for homicide for the slay of transgender Jennifer Laude in Olongapo city. Pemberton’s murder charge was lowered to homicide after the court ruled Laude had also tricked a drunk Pemberton into having sex with her. Pemberton had claimed he suffered from “gay shock syndrome” when he killed Laude after discovering she was a transgender.

JEFFREY LAUDE / OCTOBER 14, 2014 Jeffrey Laude, who went by the name Jennifer, was allegedly killed by a Marine in the Philippines.  PHOTO BY ALLAN MACATUNO / INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON
JEFFREY LAUDE / OCTOBER 14, 2014
Jeffrey Laude, who went by the name Jennifer, was allegedly killed by a Marine in the Philippines.
PHOTO BY ALLAN MACATUNO / INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

Bahaghari said Pemberton’s conviction was soured by the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold EDCA’s constitutionality.

“The bitter justice that the local court gave to Jennifer Laude was entirely cancelled out by today’s traitorous decision. The government has yet again sided with its foreign master, and sold out the interest of the people,” Bonette said.

READ: Pemberton sentenced to 12 years in jail for transgender Laude slay

EDCA allows the US to build structures, store and preposition troops and weapons, among other privileges despite a constitutional ban on foreign military bases in the country. The agreement was signed amid a brewing territorial tension between China and the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea.

EDCA is consistent with the provisions of the VFA, which allows for the entry of American troops in the country for joint military exercises.

Pemberton’s continued detention under US custody was a result of a loophole under the VFA, which states that while Philippines has jurisdiction over those who committed crimes within the country, the US has custody over the military official from commission of the offense until the completion of the judicial proceedings.

EDCA is also an agreement further implementing the Mutual Defense Treaty, which mandates both the Philippines and US to help each other in case of an attack.

Bonette said the high court’s decision favoring EDCA is a “blow against the efforts of all freedom loving Filipinos.”

It also marks a new chapter for the militant LGBT movement to continue the struggle against US military presence in the country, Bonette added.

“(T)he SC decision marks a new chapter in the long struggle for genuine freedom and democracy. The LGBT community will continue to join the people in opposing the presence of foreign military troops in the Philippines,” Bonette said.

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