On October 11 of last year, Filipina transgender woman Jennifer Laude was found dead in the bathroom of a seedy motel in Olongapo City, Philippines. While on trial for her murder, Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton recently admitted to choking Laude because he discovered she was trans while they were having sex. Eyewitnesses identified Pemberton, and one of his fellow officers testified that Pemberton had confessed to killing Laude.
At the time of Laude's death, Pemberton's ship had been docked in Olongapo as part of a controversial Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the U.S., which has since allowed Pemberton to remain in U.S. custody while being tried in a local Olongapo court.
As family members and activists await the verdict in the case, they gathered several times over the weekend in Manila, Olongapo, and various parts of the Philippines, to commemorate Laude's death and advocate for Pemberton's imprisonment.
Last Friday, students and activists from LGBT, women's, and anti-U.S. military groups gathered at the University of the Philippines, Diliman in Quezon City for a candlelight vigil.
On Sunday morning, activists came to Olongapo to join Laude's family in remembering Laude's death. The day started with a march around Olongapo City, which made a stop at Celzone Lodge, the motel where Laude died, as well as the entrance to the Subic Freeport, site of the former American naval base where Pemberton's ship the U.S.S. Pelelieu docked the night that Laude was killed. It ended at the local high school where activists and family members gave speeches.
The family also organized a private Mass at Laude's grave to commemorate and mourn her passing. In attendance were Laude's mother Julita and her two sisters Marilou and Michelle, along with extended family, friends, lawyers for the family, and select activists.
Olongapo City Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde is expected to deliver her verdict by December 14, the deadline for resolving the case under the Visiting Forces Agreement. If the case is not resolved by this date, Pemberton will go free.