MANILA, Philippines – Protests yesterday greeted reports of the Bureau of Immigration’s issuance of a deportation order against US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is on trial for the killing of a Filipino transgender last year in Olongapo City.
Various groups, particularly the gay community, expressed alarm over the BI’s issuance of the order ahead of a verdict from an Olongapo City court on the murder case against Pemberton.
The Marine is on trial for the killing of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude inside a motel room in October last year.
As protests erupted over its decision, the BI clarified that its order to deport Pemberton has nothing to do with the upcoming visit of US President Barack Obama for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting next month in Manila.
“Absolutely no connection to APEC visit. No relation to APEC. It has nothing to do with the arrival of President Obama,” BI Commissioner Siegfred Mison said.
Militant groups and members of the LGBT community picketed briefly outside the BI office in Intramuros before noon yesterday to denounce the issuance of the deportation order.
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A militant youth group also criticized the BI decision.
Christian Lloyd Magsoy, chairpman of Anakbayan-Metro Manila chapter, said deporting the American is tantamount to granting him freedom.
“His deportation will result in granting his freedom despite admitting that he choked our fellow Filipino Jennifer Laude who has fallen victim over the unilateral Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” Magsoy said.
He also urged the Aquino administration to junk the VFA and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US, which he said create an environment that puts Filipinos at risk.
Pemberton was on furlough when he met Laude at a bar before checking into a motel where the killing took place.
“Our Filipinos are murdered, raped and maltreated in our own country and yet the criminals get away with it because our own government is the one granting them freedom,” Magsoy said.
The militant leader said pushing through with Pemberton’s deportation would only prove that President Aquino is a puppet of the US government.
“Traitors are always remembered in history and it is clear that Aquino tops the list of traitors. We are holding him accountable for the justice that is taken away from Jennifer,” he said.
In Olongapo City, the camp of Laude welcomed the news but stressed the order should be carried out only after the soldier has served his sentence, if convicted.
Private prosecutor Virgie Suarez, in a text message to The STAR, said it was at the request of the Laude family that Pemberton be made the subject of deportation proceedings.
“It proves that he is indeed an undesirable alien arising from the killing of Jennifer. This notwithstanding, his deportation should be after he serves his sentence, if found guilty. Any contrary ruling will accord him with impunity,” Suarez said.
Marilou Laude, sister of the victim, told The STAR in a phone interview the case is not yet over and that it’s up to the judge handling the case if she would agree to deport the accused.
“Why now when the court is so close to making a decision on the case, it is already October, right?” she said in Filipino.
Aside from being ordered deported, Pemberton’s name has also been included in the bureau’s watchlist to prevent him from returning to the Philippines in case he gets deported.
BI spokesperson Elaine Tan said that while the resolution on Pemberton’s deportation was issued last Sept. 16, or some two months before the APEC meeting in Manila, the deportation order was not intended as a “goodwill” gesture for Obama’s coming visit.
Tan stressed the APEC meeting or the arrival of Obama next month was not considered by the Board of Special Inquiry (BSI) of the BI when it made its ruling on the case.
The BSI is composed of Mison and Associate Commissioners Gilberto Repizo and Abdullah Mangotara.
“He is being deported because of the violation he committed. He is considered as an undesirable foreign national,” said Tan.
She added the BSI did not give special treatment to the Pemberton case.
“There was no special treatment. This is how we deal with other deportation cases involving moral turpitude, for undesirability,” she said.
The BI’s decision to deport Pemberton reportedly drew objections from the Marine’s lawyer Rowena Garcia Flores, who said that the BI was prejudging her client’s case when it issued the order.
The Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74 is reportedly set to issue its verdict on the case on Dec. 14.
Flores reportedly expressed concern that Pemberton might remain an undesirable alien even if acquitted by the court.
She also suggested that the BI rely on the court decision and not on information gathered from the Senate investigation.
But Tan said that it was not their intention to issue a decision ahead of the court. “The BI resolution is not dependent on the outcome of the court… The quantum of evidence in the deportation case is different from the court,” she said.
“If the penalty in the criminal case is more than one year, the presumption is that the foreigner is undesirable unless there are other evidence that would controvert this presumption,” she added.
Meanwhile, a newly formed group Pilipinong Nagkakaisa Para sa Soberanya (P1NAS) has vowed to raise the issue of escalating Chinese and American military activities in the West Philippine Sea in the upcoming APEC summit in Manila.
At its first general assembly held at Miriam College Tuesday, P1NAS members vowed to bring the matter to the attention of Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping when they attend the summit next month.
Gabriela Women’s Party and P1NAS convenor Liza Maza said they are using the APEC summit as an opportunity to raise regional and global issues that impinge on Philippine sovereignty, like China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea as well as US moves to establish bases and increase its troops in the country as part of its rebalancing to Asia.
“We decry the fact that the West Philippine Sea is emerging as the arena for the two superpowers’ dangerous game of one-upmanship. These two countries want to control that part of our exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf for their own economic and military agenda and without regard to Philippine sovereignty,” said Maza in a statement.
“To this military escalation we say stop it, we don’t want two bullies fighting it out in our backyard,” she added.
She also said P1NAS would oppose APEC’s push to further liberalize trade and investments in the region at the expense of local producers, especially in agriculture and manufacturing. – With Bebot Sison Jr., Rhodina Villanueva, Janvic Mateo
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