Philippine/US Tensions Increase Due to Murder


Ties between the United States and the Philippines have become strained since the death of Jennifer Laude, 26 years old, on October 11th of this year. Ms. Laude, a Pilipino citizen and resident of the city of Olongapo, was found murdered in a hotel room and authorities in the Philippines have found evidence linking American marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, 19 years old, to the death. The United States has had a long-standing military presence in the Philippine, which dates back to the Spanish-American War of 1898, and this relationship has not always been easy. The United States and the Philippines fought an armed conflict in the country from 1899-1902, and Philippine independence was recognized only in 1946. While both countries have retained close ties to one another, including the existence of American military bases in the Philippines until 1992, this history has led to some tension.

According to reports, the incident that has sparked the most recent outbreak of hostilities between the two countries began at an assuming bar outside of a former American naval base. There, Ms. Laude and Pfc. Pemberton first met on the night of the murder and, according to both reports and security camera footage, went to a nearby hotel. Later, Ms. Laude was found dead in the hotel room the pair had rented. The coroner’s report stated that Ms. Laude died due to asphyxia caused by drowning. It has been suggested in the media surrounding the case that Pfc. Pemberton may have violently attacked Ms. Laude after he discovered that she was transwoman. However, Pfc. Pemberton has not issued any statements concerning this hypothesis.

According to the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States, which was signed in 1998, American servicemen and women accused of a crime in the Philippines may be tried there. However, the United States can retain custody of the accused individual until after they are convicted in the Filipino court. Due to this clause, many in the Philippines have alleged that this is a breach of Filipino sovereignty. These individuals and groups have pressured the Aquino government to take full custody of Pfc. Pemberton, however the United States navy is not willing to surrender full custody of their marine without a conviction.

In an attempt to meet both ways, Pfc. Pemberton was transferred to the Philippine’s military headquarters in Manila this week. There, he will remain in US custody and guarded by members of the US navy. However, this small contingent of American naval forces will be in turn guarded by members of the Filipino military. This agreement came after careful negotiations between the American and Filipino governments. Initial suggestions by the United States would have had Pfc. Pemberton be transferred to Manila as well, however he would have remained in the American Embassy. The Filipino Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario rejected this proposal at an American foreign relations committee, which resulted in this concentric circle of guards around the prisoner. This defense proved necessary shortly after the transfer to Manila was completed, as Ms. Laude’s family arrived at the location in an attempt to meet Pfc. Pemberton. Ms. Laude’s sister and sister’s boyfriend also attempted to break into the compound, but were detained by the guards.


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