Human rights advocates and elected officials in the Philippines are demanding that a U.S. marine accused of murdering a transgender woman in the nation be turned over to local authorities, reports PinkNews.
The service member, whose name has not been disclosed, is reportedly being held on a U.S. Navy vessel while U.S. and Philippine authorities investigate. News of 26-year-old Jennifer Laude Sueselbeck's alleged murder included lurid details like the conclusion that she was strangled and had been found with her head in a toilet in the city of Olongapo.
"The Philippine government must take custody of the suspected American serviceman," University of the Philippines professor Roland Simbulan told PinkNews. "He should remain in the Philippines for his trial in a local court — to ensure justice for his Filipino victim."
Meanwhile, the suspect is said to be assigned to the Second Battalion of the Ninth Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C., as are three reported witnesses. According to PinkNews, all four are being held on board the amphibious assault ship Peleliu.
Protests are being planned to demand that the suspect be turned over to the custody of Philippine authorities. Some are even calling for the cancellation of a new agreement that allows for increased rotations of troops, ships, and other military assets of the U.S. to be rotated through bases in the Philippines.
"The case must not be swept under the rug, especially because the victim is a transgender," said Dindi Tan of the Association of Transgender People in the Phillipines.
A leading political party focused on women's rights in the Philippines urged President Benigno Aquino to assert his jurisdiction over the accused marine.
"I condemn the heinous barbarity behind the hate crime committed on the defenseless transgender woman involved in the prostitution trade," said Gabriela Women's Party representative Emmi De Jesus, according to Pink News.
"Gabriela maintains that U.S. military basing in communities abetted by [the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement] worsens prostitution, trafficking, drugs, and spread of diseases, and Aquino needs to listen to demands to scrap the agreement," De Jesus said.
The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, signed by the Philippines and the U.S. during a state visit by President Barack Obama to Manila earlier this year, calls for "full respect for the Philippines Constitution and Philippine laws" by U.S. military personnel, according to The Diplomat, an Asia-Pacific foreign affairs journal.
The agreement was seen as a landmark development furthering the United States' stated goal of reorienting its military mission to a Pacific-centric posture. Now, however, USA Today reports that human, LGBT, and transgender rights groups in the Philippines and the U.S. are saying the deal is bad for the Philippines and should be scrapped.
"We call for the immediate junking of the Visiting Forces Agreement which has been proven to not protect the rights of the Filipino people but are in favor of protecting the U.S. troops and its imperialist power," said the Bayan Queer Caucus in a written statement following Sueselbeck's death. USA Today reports the group will protest today outside the Philippines Consulate in New York.