POSTSCRIPT / October 21, 2014 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Media can’t even pin down sex of Jeffrey?

EVIDENCE: Whose semen was in the condom left in the toilet where Jeffrey S. Laude was found dead the other Saturday in a hotel in Olongapo City? Police investigators are checking if that came from US Marine Pfc Joseph Scott Pemberton, 19, the prime suspect in the killing.

The police are also awaiting comparison between the suspect’s DNA and the material taken from the fingernails of Laude whose body bore bruises and contusions. Found half-naked with his head in the toilet bowl, the victim died of suffocation through drowning.

The lawyer representing the Laude family publicizes every piece of evidence that he secures. He has lined up several witnesses, but not one has claimed having seen the actual killing.

It might take Pemberton’s owning the crime to gain a conviction, but will his Filipino lawyers allow that? Their version of the events could be that, yes, he checked in with the victim, had some fun, paid Laude and left the hotel room while the sex worker was still in bed alive.

* * *

PERFORMING ASSET: It never occurred to me to ask if Laude was a man or a woman. Having assumed he was male, I had waved away gender as a minor detail.

But day in and day out I found myself assailed by media variously referring to the victim as transgender, transsexual, gay, bakla, transvestite and such ambivalent tags. The least that media should do, if only out of respect for the subject and our audience, is to verify the facts.

Then the other day, old friend Lupita whose opinion I respect asked me in an email from Millbrae why some of us call the victim a “transgender woman” when he was actually a man. She pointed out that while Laude may have had implanted boobs he most probably had a performing asset down there between his shaven legs.

Unable to answer her questions that sounded like a challenge to Manila media’s thoroughness, I promised to find out.

* * *

WELL ENDOWED: So last Sunday, back to being a reporter, I drove to Olongapo two hours away to gather documents, re-check details, interview people who have had contact with Laude, and take pictures.

My copy of the autopsy report signed by Dr. Reynaldo Dave Jr. showed that Laude, 26, male, 5-foot-6, died of “asphyxia by drowning”. He had bruises and contusions, had non-smelling liquid oozing out his mouth while his tongue stuck out. He had breast implants measuring 12 cm in diameter.

The doctor was not around so I could not re-confirm with him Laude’s gender or sex although his medical report already said it.

Fallback source was Olongapo Mayor Rolen Paulino who was present during the autopsy. He told me that he saw Laude indeed had a penis, adding he was “well endowed”. To me, that was enough confirmation that the victim was not a woman as some media would have it.

* * *

LET HIM REST: At the funeraria, where Laude lay before his cremation on Friday, the family has mounted his favorite color picture with long hair and some cleavage showing. The photo was captioned Jeffrey S. Laude, not “Jennifer” as the deceased may have wanted.

I could not muster the nerve to ask Aling Julita the mother the indelicate question of whether Jeffrey or Jennifer was male. I missed on that one, but would not now go back just to hear an answer from his mother’s lips.

But I gathered that reports are not true that the government has not been helping the Laude family. Mayor Paulino, for one, does look after them.

A few people in the wake also lament that some activists have been riding on the case and linking the death to the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement being discussed between the Philippine and the United States governments.

I will go back later to those weightier matter. For now, let us stop saying Jeffrey was a woman, and put to rest the tired “transgender” tag.

The gender of the late Jeffrey Serdoncillo Laude had not changed – medically or legally — since he was born Nov. 4, 1987.

* * *

FOOD & DRUGS: Sen. Pia Cayetano may want to spring back from her quietude and do an oversight review of RA 9711, her “baby legislation” that covers food and drugs representing more than half of household expenditures.

It seems to many stakeholders that the Food and Drug Administration has fallen on its job of checking the proliferation of fake, substandard, contaminated and hazardous health products in the market as mandated by RA 9711.

The senadora can also look into the status of the FDA’s Special Regulatory Fund (SRF), or the income that the agency is allowed to retain under Section 31 of RA 9502 and other laws that it is mandated to administer or implement.

While at it, Cayetano can check if perhaps FDA’s leadership has not been up to the task. Or she can revisit the practice of appointing medical doctors to the helm of FDA.

With the failure of previous leaderships—under doctors—to guide well the FDA in the five years since RA 9711 was enacted, it may be time to consider other qualifications now that Director-General Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go has resigned.

Doctor or not, the FDA boss must be one who can deliver what was promised in RA 9711. So much is at stake.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 21, 2014)

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