The case is murder.

The body of Jennifer Laude was found battered and bruised and she reportedly died due to asphyxia by drowning after being forced head down into a toilet bowl.

The political complication is the VFA.

The suspect is US Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton who, as allowed under US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), was first held by US authorities in the American naval ship, USS Peleliu, and then transferred to a US paid container van holding cell at Camp Aguinaldo.

The concern and protest is that justice might not be rendered because of this complication.

The concern is a valid one as the Philippine government has not historically instilled confidence amongst its citizens that it will ensure justice for crimes committed against them by US military personnel, specially not with its handling over the custody of convicted rapist US Lance Corporal Daniel Smith (in the 2005 Subic rape case) under VFA rules. Such preferential treatment of military personnel can also be seen in the present successful efforts of former Major Gen. Jovito Palparan of being allowed by the government to remain in military detention and not transferred to a regular civilian jail during his trial for the disappearance of students Sherlyn Capadan and Karen Empeno.

We join the call for the government to ensure justice for the murder of Jennifer Laude and uphold its obligations under the International Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to ensure that any person whose civil rights have been violated shall have an effective remedy – over its political commitments under the US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement.

The greater tragedy here is the disrespect and vilification of Jennifer because she is a transgender woman.

Continuing news reportage referring to her as Jeffrey, identifying her as “he”, “gay” or “homosexual”, all disregard how Jennifer chose to identify herself in name and in gender. Early comments from investigators and officials offered excuses for the suspect and laid blame on the victim because she was “not a real woman” who tried to engage in “a sex service gone wrong”.

This contempt has been magnified several times to the level of hate speech in comments on online news and social media. These comments are not anonymous – these are discriminatory, hateful, ruthless and violent remarks written with the actual names and even pictures of their sources. Jennifer may have been murdered by one man, but a lot of haters are joining in on the killing.

The hate spewed against the transsexuality of Jennifer Laude provides the backdrop and the impetus for widespread societal discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE), hate crimes, and gender based violence in the Philippines and elsewhere that leave transsexuals like Jennifer vulnerable to abuse, violence and violation. All this hate also serves as a jarring indicator of how far we still have to go in advocating against discrimination and protecting transsexuals like Jennifer.

The government is obligation bound to protect everyone from human rights violations and we call on it to pass and implement necessary legislation such as the Anti-Discrimination Bill that will provide legal safeguards and remedies to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) against discriminatory acts.

But more than legal protection, the larger aim we must work on is a change in attitude by the common tao – on tolerance and respect for each other’s differences, identities, sexuality, self-expression and autonomy; and on being vigilant, indignant and outraged by discrimination, violence and violations against others.

Towards this end Amnesty International Philippines will continue and intensify our human rights education, mobilization, lobby and campaigning efforts working together with lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders against discrimination, in advancement of LGBT rights, towards universal respect and protection of human rights.


Amnesty International on Gender-based Violence

When someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity does not conform to the majority, it often becomes a target for discrimination. This leads to gender-based violence, hate crimes, torture, illegal detention or even execution. Everyday across the world, persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity occur and take on a variety of forms and these go against the basic doctrine of international human rights law.

Human Rights do not discriminate. Amnesty International believes that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to enjoy the full range of human rights and must be protected under international and national laws against persecution and discrimination, without exception.

Amnesty International seeks to promote the fundamental principle of universality. If we tolerate the denial of rights to any group, we undermine the whole protective framework of human rights by taking away its very essence — the equal rights and dignity of all human beings.

If human rights of one group are not protected, then the human rights of everyone are at risk. States which refuse to respect the equal human rights of LGBT people under their jurisdiction must be held accountable when LGBT people are targeted for human rights abuses for lack of protection.

The abuses against LGBT people documented by Amnesty International violate some of the core human rights protected under international standards including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In the Philippines, a number of hate crimes have been documented in recent years. LGBT groups have emerged calling for equal protection as a preventive measure before abuses occur and prompt investigation if and when abuses take place.

Jennifer Laude, the transgender woman killed in Olongapo City on 11 October 2014, is only one of hundreds of cases of hate crimes. There may be more unreported cases or simply cases that aren’t categorized as a hate crime.

Amnesty International is asking governments to ensure that all allegations and reports of human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity are promptly and impartially investigated and perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice. Police and judicial authorities should act with due diligence to protect LGBT people against violence within the broader community. The authorities should make clear that such violence is a criminal offense and will not be tolerated. It is the duty of the government to take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to prohibit and eliminate prejudicial treatment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity at every stage of the administration of justice.