Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

This #GivingTuesday, whatever is your first priority, your second priority has to be independent media.

2021 has been one of the most dangerous and difficult years for independent journalism that we’ve ever seen. Our democracy is facing serial existential threats including the climate emergency, vaccine apartheid amid deadly pandemic, a global crisis for biodiversity, reproductive freedoms under assault, rising authoritarianism worldwide, and corporate-funded corruption of democracy that run beneath all of this. Giving Tuesday is a critical opportunity to make sure our journalism remains funded so that we can stay focused on all your priority issues. Please contribute today to keep Common Dreams alive and growing.

Please Help This #GivingTuesday -- Though our content is free to all, less than 1% of our readers give. We’re counting on you. Please help Common Dreams end the year strong.

Rally at the Department of Foreign Affairs to demand "Justice for Jennifer" on Oct. 15, 2014 at suburban Pasay city, south of Manila, Philippines. (Photo: Bullit Marquez/AP)

Rally at the Department of Foreign Affairs to demand "Justice for Jennifer" on Oct. 15, 2014 at suburban Pasay city, south of Manila, Philippines. (Photo: Bullit Marquez/AP)

Philippine President Says Alleged Murder by US Marine Won't End Military Agreement

Those opposed to continuation of  'Visiting Forces Agreement' say recent incident is not an isolated case, but  "one of a vast history of crimes committed by U.S. service members on Philippine soil"

Sarah Lazare

Philippine President Benigno Aquino sparked outrage on Monday when he declared he will not meet growing calls across the country to scrap the U.S.-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) following the alleged murder of a transgender Filipina woman, Jennifer Laude, by a U.S. service member in the country.

U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton stands accused by Philippine authorities of killing 26-year-old Laude in Olongapo City on October 11th. Pemberton, one of 3,500 U.S. military service members who recently took part in a joint military exercise with the Philippines, is currently being held by U.S. military officials on a naval ship docked in Subic Bay, a former U.S. Navy base next to Olongapo, northwest of Manila.

Speaking to reporters from the island of Leyte on Monday, Aquino rejected protesters' demands and said the military agreement will not be terminated over the alleged murder. "Why do we need to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement?" he said. "I mean, name me any place that doesn't have a crime. And the sin of one person should be reflective of the entire country? I don't think so. What is important is there was a crime, we should gather all evidence to prove the guilt and justice will be served."

"Jennifer's murder is only one of a vast history of crimes committed by U.S. [service members] on Philippine soil because of these unequal agreements."
—Bernadette Ellorin, BAYAN-USA

Philippine prosecutors have summoned Pemberton and four other U.S. military service members to appear on Tuesday as part of their investigation. However, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy, those "witnesses will not appear on Tuesday, as they have already met their current legal obligations. In accordance with the VFA, the witnesses will be made available for the trial."

Whether Pemberton himself will appear, according to the statement, "is a decision that the suspect will make in consultation with Philippine legal counsel, in accordance with Philippine law."

Since news of the killing surfaced, daily protests have swept the Philippines and other countries demanding for "Justice for Jennifer," including full Philippine jurisdiction over the case and a reconsideration of the military relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines, which was drawn tighter with April's signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement—a 10 year pact that expands U.S. military presence in the Philippines.

"President Aquino belittles Jennifer Laude's murder by defending the VFA and the neocolonial relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines," Bernadette Ellorin, chairperson of BAYAN-USA, an alliance of Philippine organizations in the U.S., told Common Dreams.

In particular, protesters are calling for the scrapping of the 1998 VFA between the U.S. and the Philippines, which allows U.S. military stationing and joint operations in the country and largely shields U.S. military service members from accountability under Philippine law. The VFA states that "the custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request," and the deal has previously been used to shield U.S. service members accused of atrocities from Philippine jurisdiction.

Protesters say that Laude's killing is not an isolated case, but rather the U.S. has a long track record of committing atrocities against Philippine civilians, harming the environment, and displacing communities with impunity. "Jennifer's murder is only one of a vast history of crimes committed by U.S. [service members] on Philippine soil because of these unequal agreements," said Ellorin. "In addition, it's equally sickening how Aquino trivializes Philippine sovereignty by placing premium on ensuring U.S. military domination over the country."

“Trans women like Jennifer are at a higher risk for violence because we live in a society that devalues their lives,” stated Irma Bajar, a member of the U.S. arm of GABRIELA—a Philippine alliance of women's movement organizations—in a statement following the killing. “The murder of Jennifer is a hate crime committed by U.S. military personnel, and we call on B.S. Aquino to compel the U.S. to surrender Pemberton to Philippine authorities and terminate the VFA and EDCA now!”


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Omar Hangs Up After Boebert Uses Call to Double Down on 'Outright Bigotry and Hate'

"Instead of apologizing for her Islamophobic comments and fabricated lies, Rep. Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments."

Jessica Corbett ·


Win for Alabama Workers as NLRB Orders New Union Vote After Amazon's Alleged Misconduct

A union leader said the decision confirmed that "Amazon's intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace."

Jessica Corbett ·


'For the Sake of Peace,' Anti-War Groups Demand Biden Return to Nuclear Deal With Iran

"It's time to put differences aside and return to the Iran nuclear deal," said one advocate.

Julia Conley ·


'That's for Them to Decide': UK Secretary Rebuked for Claiming Vaccine Patent Waiver Won't Be 'Helpful' to Global Poor

One U.K. lawmaker asked when the government would "start putting the need to end this pandemic in front of the financial interests of Big Pharma?"

Andrea Germanos ·


Shell Slammed for Plan to Blast South African Coastline for Oil and Gas During Whale Season

"We cannot allow climate criminals, like Shell, to plunder in the name of greed," said Greenpeace.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo