‘Why did he have to kill her?’ – sister of Jennifer Laude

Jennifer Laude's wake at St. Martin's Memorial Homes in Olongapo City. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ Bulatlat.com)
Jennifer Laude’s wake at St. Martin’s Memorial Homes in Olongapo City. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ Bulatlat.com)

Whenever she came home to Leyte, it was like a feast. Jennifer prepared food for all their neighbors as a way of sharing her blessings.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

OLONGAPO CITY – What Julita Cabillan thought would be a surprise turned out to be a tragedy.

On Oct. 12, she received a call from her daughter Michelle telling her to go to Olongapo City. When she asked why, Michelle just answered a surprise awaits her. It would be her other daughter Jennifer’s birthday on November 4, she thought. The next day, she travelled from their hometown in Leyte and arrived in the city Tuesday night. There were lights and flowers but it was no birthday celebration, it was a funeral. When she saw the picture of her daughter Jennifer on top of a white coffin, it seemed that the world stood still.

“I thought I would die,” Julita said as tears flowed beneath her black-framed eyeglasses. “Her life was snatched away just like that.”

Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old transgender woman, was found dead inside the bathroom of a motel room in Olongapo City, Oct. 11. Autopsy reports showed that Laude died from drowning. The suspect, caught on CCTV camera, is identified as Pvt. 1st Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the United States Marine Corps.

Julita, 55, appealed for President Benigno Aquino III’s help. “I hope that the President would not turn a blind eye to this incident and take action. Others may fall victims too if nothing would be done to solve this,” she told Bulatlat.com in an interview.

Jennifer Laude's mother, Julita Cabillan, calls for justice. (Photo by Macky Macaspac of Pinoy Weekly)
Jennifer Laude’s mother, Julita Cabillan, calls for justice. (Photo by Macky Macaspac of Pinoy Weekly)

Murder charges have been filed by Laude’s family and the local police against Pemberton but the latter remains under US custody on board the USS Peleliu at Subic Bay port. Pemberton was one of the 4,000 American troops who participated in the Philippine-US Bilateral Exercises (Phiblex), the joint military exercises under Visiting Forces Agreement.

Article V, paragraph 6 of the VFA provides that the Philippines will have jurisdiction on any law-offending US personnel, but custody “shall immediately reside with US military authorities,” unless the Philippines makes a request for transfer.

Laude’s elder sister Michelle insisted that jurisdiction and custody of Pemberton should be with Philippine authorities. “If Filipinos commit crimes in the US, the US takes custody. Why is that suspect who committed a crime here is under US custody? We want a fair trial. We demand justice,” Michelle said, her voice seething with anger.

Michelle was with her sister and some friends on the night of the incident. She lost sight of Jennifer and after about 30 minutes, one of the waiters approached Michelle and told her that her sister was at Celzon lodge and she needed help. Upon seeing Jennifer inside the bathroom, Michelle fainted. Jennifer’s head was submerged in the toilet. Her body bore torture marks. Michelle said that Jennifer might have been dragged as her sandals were found a few meters apart.

“So what if she was a gay? He could have just left her or beat her up. Why did he have to kill her?” Michelle said, referring to the suspect.

Loving child, caring friend

Julita said she could not accept the brutal killing of Jennifer.

Julita said that since childhood, Jennifer had been a loving child. She would help in the household chores. She was a diligent student, too.

After finishing high school in 2006, Jennifer went to Olongapo City to work. She ended up as a beautician in a salon. She regularly sent money to her mother who suffers from a heart ailment.

Over the years, Julita said they were able to repair their old house from Jennifer’s remittances. Jennifer also provided the down payment for the tricycle for Julita’s second husband, who earns income from being a tricycle driver. Jennifer’s father died years ago.

Whenever she came home to Leyte, it was like a feast. Jennifer prepared food for all their neighbors as a way of sharing her blessings.

Jennifer’s best friend Roann Labrador recounted how compassionate Jennifer was. She gave food or money to street children.

Labrador, who shared an apartment with Jennifer, said the latter was so motherly. Jennifer would cook for her and look after her needs.

Julita recalled the last day she saw her daughter. On July 6 this year, Julita visited Jennifer and Michelle in Olongapo City. Jennifer brushed her mother’s hair and told her, ‘Ma, I am just here. Do not forget that I would always support you.’

Julita, still crying, said, “I am so fortunate to have her as a child. Her life could not be paid even by the 10 lives of that American soldier.”

Julita never thought she would mark Jennifer’s 27th birthday grieving.()

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  1. Her? Jennifer was a GUY

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