As expected, US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton was a no-show in yesterday’s preliminary hearing on the death of Filipino transgender Jeffrey Laude in which he stands accused. Pemberton’s legal counsel Rowena Garcia Flores reportedly argued that her client’s presence was “not required” and that he “was still studying the complaint against him.” In response, chief prosecutor Fe de los Santos issued a non-legal argument: “The attendance of the marine will serve as a very good assessment of the willingness of the US government to comply with the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement,” de los Santos said.
Filipino activists led by “women’s issues” advocate GABRIELA are already propagating their version of the verdict in this case calling Pemberton a “murderer” in the protest paraphernalia they display. GABRIELA and other leftist groups have also latched on to the case to bolster their long-standing efforts to discredit the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which governs the joint military operations being conducted by Philippine and United States forces within Philippine territory.
The Philippines has long been virtually wholly dependent on the United States for national defense. It sports the weakest military in the region and is currently watching helplessly as China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) marches in and liberates it of its territories in the “West Philippine Sea”. But GABRIELA party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan had expressed fears early this year that “the country could see a rise in women and child abuse cases as a result of the 10-year defense deal that will allow greater US military presence in the country.”
Ilagan seems to conveniently forget, however, that many of the most heinous crimes in the Philippines are perpetrated by Filipinos themselves. Indeed, it is likely that crime that can be directly attributed to American military personnel is statistically insignificant. Indeed, the most recent high-profile crackdowns on child abuse in the Philippines were, in fact, initiated by foreign law enforcement agencies. This is another example of the way Filipinos are motivated by foreign pressure first before any self-initiative. Left to their own devices, local law enforcement agencies will have likely left that cancer to fester right under their noses.
Filipino “activists” should also consider the tens (possibly hundreds) of thousands of Filipino lives that were saved and relieved of their misery by the awesome might of the US military back in late 2013 after super typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines. If there were “victims” of “human rights violations” supposedly perpetrated by US troops in the past, as Ilagan points out, maybe that bit of math will put things in a bit more perspective for the honourable party-list “representative”. Perhaps Ilagan should, instead, spend her days going after her colleagues in government who make a killing syphoning off money intended for the rehabilitation of the disaster areas.
Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III, for his part, is standing by the VFA and has since been insisting that the on-going investigation of Laude’s alleged murder does not have any bearing on the on-going military ties between the US and its former colony. “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.” Aquino told reporters early this week.
Needless to say, there are other, more pressing things Filipino “activists” should be worrying about than, say, American GI’s on Philippine soil being preyed upon by an underworld of sex workers. Perhaps they should keep the heat on pork barrel thieves and murderous Mindanao warlords like Andal Ampatuan rather than on a country and its government that, according to recent research, Filipinos love. In short, the Filipino people’s enemy is not America — it is themselves and the government they’ve built for themselves. It’s high time our so-called “activists” figure that out.
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