A member of the US Marine Corps is being held and investigated for the killing of a transgender in Olongapo City, Zambales.
According to a report by the Navy Times, a weekly independent newspaper based in Springfield, Virginia, the suspect, whose identity was withheld, is currently being investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in connection with the death of Jeffrey Laude alias Jenny, 26, of Barangay West Tapinac, Olongapo City.
Reports said Laude was last seen alive with a foreigner. The victim’s body was found inside the Celzone Lodge on Saturday night.
The suspect, according to the reports, is with the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. His unit was part of the US contingent onboard USS Peleliu that participated in the just concluded Philippine-US Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex) 15 held in Palawan and other parts of Luzon.
The Navy Times said its report was based on a memo distributed to senior Navy officials, the NCIS and State Department personnel.
As of late September, three US Navy ships– USS Peleliu, USS Germantown and USS Frank Cable– were docked in the former US naval base in Subic Bay, Zambales.
As a result of the incident, Admiral Samuel Locklear 3rd, the commander of the US Pacific Command, ordered all US ships to remain in the Philippines pending investigation of the US serviceman, Eduardo Oban Jr., the head of the Visiting Forces Agreement Commission (VFACom), said on Monday.
Some 4,000 American soldiers took part in this year’s Phiblex 15. American servicemen are usually given free time on weekends for relaxation and recreation.
The VFACom, US Embassy in Manila and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) are waiting for the result of the investigation.
If the US serviceman was indeed involved in the killing, Oban said, investigative and judicial proceedings provided under the VFA would be followed.
Under the VFA, the Philippines will have jurisdiction on criminal cases but Oban said the US military will retain custody of Americans or US servicemen involved in such cases.
Laude’s killing is reminiscent of the rape complaint filed by Suzette Nicolas against four US Marines in 2005. Nicolas claimed that Lance Corporal Daniel Smith raped her while three of his companions–Lance Corporals Chad Carpentier, Dominic Duplantis and Keith Silkwood–cheered him on.
Smith was never committed to a local jail and was held instead at the US Embassy in Manila. He was later allowed to return to the US after an amicable settlement with the family of the victim. Nicolas was granted a US visa and is now living in the United States.
At press time, the US Embassy is yet to release a statement regarding the Laude case although GMA News said in a report that the embassy vowed to coordinate and work closely with the Philippine National Police “to take all necessary steps to help identify the suspects.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario also on Monday confirmed that he met with US Embassy officials to discuss the case.
“The US assured us that we will demonstrate that the VFA works amid the close friendship and cooperation between the Philippines and the US. I think we will have a very close cooperation in making sure that justice is served,” he said.
The VFA is a 1999 military agreement signed on the basis of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) to develop the individual and collective capacity of the Philippines and the United States to resist an armed attack.
Del Rosario confirmed that the PNP has joined the investigation.
The Gabriela party-list group condemned Laude’s slay, calling it a “hate crime.”
Gabriela Rep. Emerenciana De Jesus said the US military basing in Philippine communities “worsens prostitution, trafficking, drugs and spread of diseases.”