Content warning: This article discusses transphobia and a graphic account of anti-transgender violence and murder
In 2015, the Olongapo Regional Trial Court found U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton guilty of homicide for the brutal killing of trans woman Jennifer Laude and sentenced him to 6 to 12 years in jail. For Laude’s mother Julita and roommate Jamille, the conviction should have been for murder. “At least Pemberton is alive; he’s in jail, but still alive. Jennifer is dead. He should be jailed for life,” said Jamille.
On Aug. 25, the Supreme Court allowed Pemberton to withdraw the appeal to overturn his jail term which was filed in 2017. A day after, Pemberton’s counsel Atty. Rowena Garcia-Flores handed Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde of regional trial court branch 74a check for Laude’s family that amounted to P4,655,250.
The convicted marine was ordered to pay the family P4.3 million for Laude’s loss of earning capacity, P50,000 for civil indemnity, P30,000 for exemplary damages, and another P50,000 for moral damages.
However, it would be prudent to note that her life is not worth any amount of cash. Let’s be wary of any attempts to sensationalize the amount paid and rationalize violence against anyone from the trans community. We must continue strengthening the efforts to protect trans women.
Many have not forgotten the grisly details of Laude’s murder. Her naked body was found, her head submerged in a toilet bowl, at a motel in 2014. During the court proceedings, Pemberton admitted to choking her after finding out that she was a trans woman while she was performing a sexual act on him.
Trans women are real women and they don’t owe anyone disclosure. As long as there are still people who do not accept these facts, our fight will never be over. Although there are groups such as the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines that have documented cases of anti-transgender violence, the country has yet to produce a national report with the actual number for it. To help give a bit of perspective on what the data may look like, The Human Rights Campaign Foundation has reported at least 26 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means in the US this year (as of July).