he United States and Philippine governments share the blame for the tragedy. Two young lives needlessly destroyed: the first, a young Filipino transgender found strangled inside a motel bathroom; the second a teenaged American serviceman now accused of murder.
What took place that fateful evening of October 11th—when Jeffrey Laude, 26, a transgender who went by the name "Jennifer," and his companion United States Marine Private 1st Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, 19, checked into the Celzone Lodge in Olongapo City—are still under investigation. What we know is that the couple checked-in at 10:30 pm, Pemberton left the motel approximately an hour later, and Laude's lifeless body was found on the bathroom floor shortly before midnight.
What we also know for sure is that many neighborhoods in Olongapo City are not the most wholesome of places. Sitting just outside the former US Naval Base of Subic Bay, for decades the city attracted the dregs of society. Prostitutes, drug dealers, scam artists, thieves, and the criminal syndicates behind all of them operated out of Olongapo. Like rats lured by the irresistible scent of cheese, it was the US Dollar—the greenbacks in the wallets of American servicemen—that drove them there. The US Navy left its sprawling naval base in 1992, but old habits die hard in Olongapo. The city is still home to subsequent generations of riffraff out to make the occasional visiting foreigner quickly part with his money.
As we noted in our previous editorial LINK, Olongapo's unsavory reputation is no secret. Both the Philippine and United States governments know what goes on in the streets of that city. Even Filipino parents warn their adolescent children to stay away from places like Olongapo. Why no restrictions were placed by either government on the visiting American troops is beyond comprehension.
The United States, developed the Subic Bay naval facility. They ran it for almost a hundred years (1899-1992). They know what Olongapo City is all about. So why did they give their troops, many like Pemberton still in their teens, access to that city? In addition, how could the US Navy not be sensitive to the cultural differences between Americans and Filipinos. Filipinos in many ways are more accepting of homosexuals than Americans. Local TV shows regularly feature outwardly gay celebrities. US Naval authorities could have provided their young troops with recreation and entertainment alternatives instead of allowing them roam the streets of Olongapo on their own.
As for the Philippines, the government must not forget that these young servicemen are guests. They may be in Subic Bay as part of a military training exercise but they are still guests. And world renowned "Filipino hospitality" demands that Filipinos take good care of their guests. "Filipino hospitality" should also encompass being culturally sensitive. Unlike Filipinos, the average American is not used to cross-dressers and drag-queens. More importantly, gays in the US hook-up with other gays, unlike Filipino homosexuals who often prefer hooking-up with "straight" males. If only Philippine authorities had been sensitive to such cultural differences and put appropriate safeguards in place, this tragedy tragedy would have easily been avoided.
At this point in time it must be stressed that the Philippines appears to need the US more than the US needs the Philippines. The Chinese want nothing better than to drive a wedge between Americans and Filipinos. And one should not put it beneath the Chinese to stoke the flames and fund those who want the Visiting Forces Agreement between both countries abrogated. Chinese military leaders must be grinning from ear to ear hoping Filipinos drive away the Americans. Then the Chinese can simply walk in and take what they want in the West Philippine Sea.
As we pointed out earlier, both the United States and the Philippine governments through negligence and insensitivity created this mess. Now both governments must clean it up to the satisfaction of both Filipinos and Americans. Published 10/19/2014