On Laude, Phl gov’t is acting like a bakla
LIMP: Without meaning to offend the gay community, we think the Philippine government has been acting like a bakla in its handling of the killing of Jeffrey S. Laude last Oct. 11 in an Olongapo hotel where he and a US marine had checked in.
We borrow the term bakla just to highlight the fact that Philippine authorities have not been firm and resolute in dealing with an admittedly superior force:
• It has been almost two weeks since Laude met a violent death, with US Marine Pfc Joseph Scott Pemberton as prime suspect. Yet investigators reportedly still do not have his fingerprints and, we presume, his DNA samples. Or even his preliminary sworn statement.
• While the proper Philippine court has primary and exclusive jurisdiction, the custody of the marine remains with the US government under an onerous provision of the Phl-US Visiting Forces Agreement that has not been corrected since it was signed 16 years ago.
• Under the VFA, American custody may be waived if the Philippine government tells the US side that the case is of particular interest to it. The Philippines has only 20 days to press the issue, but it seems afraid to insist. Why?
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HURRY UP!: In the preliminary investigation in Olongapo last Tuesday, Pemberton did not even bother to show up, on advice of his Filipino lawyer who explained that the subpoena did not specify that her client personally appear.
Refusal to make Pemberton available for physical and other examinations right after the incident could be obstruction of justice. The bruises of Laude indicated that he fought back. The police should have checked immediately if the suspect had injuries.
The police collected residue under the fingernails of Laude, who could have clawed at his attacker, but investigators have no DNA samples and bits of skin or flesh of the suspect for comparison.
This is not to say that Pemberton did it. But police investigators are supposed to coordinate with their counterparts in the US naval criminal investigation service whose cooperation is committed under the VFA.
In a criminal case like this, time is of the essence. In two weeks, scratches and bruises inflicted on Laude’s killer could have healed. Tomorrow, Laude is scheduled to be cremated, erasing forever all evidence of foul play on his person.
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JOINT CUSTODY: Pemberton was transferred yesterday from the USS Peleliu in Subic to improvised detention quarters at Camp Aguinaldo to enable the warship to sail on and at the same time soften criticisms against US hiding the suspect and rigging the flow of events.
Placing in a Philippine camp the air-conditioned 20-footer container van converted into a detention unit may have been calculated to create the impression that the US has agreed to surrender the suspect.
The public will see through that. The marine remains under US custody, with American security personnel looking after him. Filipino guards have been posted nearby baka sakaling the public would think there is concurrent custody.
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LAUDE LESSON: Joint custody is just another myth reminiscent of the quibbling of the Marcos regime when the government claimed there were no more US bases (only US facilities daw on Philippine bases over which the Philippine flag flew and where a Filipino general was in command).
Are Filipinos dumb enough to fall for that ruse?
In this interdependent world, this country that is unable to defend itself needs help from allies. But if we are to sign an agreement and compromise a bit of our sovereignty, that contract should at least be based on mutual respect, reciprocity and fairness. The VFA is not.
Laude is a grim lesson. The poor night worker tried to make the most of a lopsided situation, one that was bereft of respect and fairness—but ended up being killed by a superior force.
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JURISDICTION: Another Laude lesson is that it is time the Philippines developed some spine in its foreign relations. When we negotiate from a supine position, we lose the deal even before the first word is spoken.
The nationalist demands on the VFA criminal jurisdiction issue are not that complicated. Nor are they unreasonable.
The section on criminal jurisdiction should be rewritten so that original and exclusive jurisdiction is always vested on Philippine authorities whenever a crime under Philippine laws is committed by anybody on Philippine soil against a Filipino.
With jurisdiction should follow physical custody of the suspect. If the accused is a foreign soldier, he must still fall under Philippine jurisdiction and custody unless the crime ascribed to him was committed as part of his mission as a soldier.
What is unreasonable and unjust about that? Why cannot we have that written into the VFA – in the same way that it is a standard provision in the status of forces agreements of the US with NATO countries?
Are Filipinos less of a friend and ally than Europeans?
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BEATING BINAY: We tried covering on TV yesterday the inquiry into the Laude case by the Senate foreign relations committee under Sen. Miriam Santiago, but the networks seemed more interested in the Yellow Ribbon committee beating to death the Binay 2016 horse.
In snatches, we heard Santiago assailing the hypocrisy of Pemberton’s transfer to Aguinaldo: “He arrived by helicopter, protected from accusing eyes. He is detained in an air-conditioned facility. Outside his door are American guards. Outside are Philippine soldiers. The mere physical arrangement indicates that he is being guarded against his Filipino critics.”
She bewailed the “iniquitous” provisions of the VFA. In earlier statements, she batted for its renegotiation. If the onerous provisions are not corrected, she added, the agreement should be abrogated.