Gruesome murders of innocent people are heard in the news every now and then. However, only few of these incidents receive as much media coverage as the recent killing of Jennifer Laude. One of the reasonable explanations for the constant reporting on the case is that the media capitalizes on the country’s deep-seated resentment towards their former American oppressors by presenting a clear binary opposition of bida (Jennifer Laude, or Filipinos in general) and kontrabida (prime suspect Joseph Scott Pemberton, or the whole US military present in the country).
It is worth pointing out how more fleeting news reports on murder, such as that of a young woman named Anria Espiritu who was stabbed with a screwdriver, strangled with a chain and suspectedly raped, frame stories in such a way that directly portrays the killers as the object of rebuke and anger. In the Jennifer Laude case, the news present issues that seem to direct anger towards the American military in general, instead of singling out Pemberton. Then again, the news could be perpetuating an already existing attitude among Filipinos. Intentionally or not, the news may have played a role in spreading awareness to the public that led them to generally agree that US military presence is detrimental to the country, while the prior benefits by using our land for their combat exercises.
The mere broadcasting of protests against the Visiting Forces Agreement, despite the policy’s claim to benefit the Philippines, become a form of resistance to the Americans. Somehow, the public reaction presented in the news may be understood intertextually by recalling a rape case involving a Filipina and an American soldier in Subic a couple of years ago.
Amidst all the issues against the US, Philippine military officials have forbidden the media to go near Pemberton. We can notice how the lack of media coverage becomes a subtle means of protecting an individual like Pemberton, given that the Armed Forces of the Philippines benefit from the United States. Perhaps, it deprives viewers of an actual face to hate and leaves them with vague anger.
Attention on the issue shifted after reports about Jennifer Laude’s German fiance Marc Sueselbeck climbing over the fence of the compound containing Pemberton and pushing a military officer. He is suddenly implied as the “bad guy” when a subsequent report entitled “Sundalong itinulak ni Sueselbeck, pinarangalan” portrays the military officer as the hero. Imagining a common Filipino man doing the same act committed by Sueselbeck, I find it hard to imagine that the AFP would give the military man an award at all. A Filipino against another Filipino does not sufficiently make a vivid binary opposition. Sueselbeck’s act, along with his foreign nationality, was probably an opportunity for Filipinos to satisfy their desire to compensate for their inferiority complex towards the West by playing the “kawawa” card to gain affirmation. The awarded military officer, Technical Sergeant Mariano Pamitan embodied a value regarded as praiseworthy by Filipinos: not fighting back even when offense is committed against you. AFP chief of staff Gen. Grogorio Pio Catapang, Jr. praised the officer in an interview saying, “Kita n’yo naman na, ikaw nga yung bastusin na guwardiya ka, so siya wala siyang ginawa.” Additionally, the recognition earned by this military officer may have been due to the hype in the news and actually trivial compared to his 18 years of work in Sulu and Basilan. After all, the Philippines has no alliance to preserve with Germany, unlike with the United States. The news even highlights the words “undesirable alien” by repeatedly mentioning it when reporting on Sueselbeck, yet has never acknowledged a similar dishonorable name to Pemberton who supposedly committed a bigger offense.
“Disbarment, Banta Ng AFP Sa Abogado Ng Mga Laude.” YouTube. October 30, 2014. Accessed November 3, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqYDqWK4kmY&list=PLgyY1WylJUmhqI2vroq5xF2W3Uw83U3Pc&index=2.
“Giit ng kampo ni Pemberton: Homicide, sa halip na murder.” YouTube. October 27, 2014. Accessed November 3, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SvhLF6wZ6c&list=PLgyY1WylJUmhqI2vroq5xF2W3Uw83U3Pc&index=5.
“Marc Sueselbeck, hinarang sa NAIA, hinimatay.” YouTube. October 26, 2014. Accessed November 3, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=187l9XiRfVE&list=PLgyY1WylJUmhqI2vroq5xF2W3Uw83U3Pc&index=7.
“Marine Accused of ‘strangling a Transgender Filipina in a Hotel Toilet after Finding out She Was Not Born a Woman’ Is Transferred to Philippine Jail for Trial.” Mail Online. October 22, 2014. Accessed November 3, 2014. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2802547/US-agrees-Marine-Philippine-detention.html.
“Nanay ni Jenny Laude, masama ang loob kay PNoy.” YouTube. October 28, 2014. Accessed November 3, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCixWLJAPTk&index=3&list=PLgyY1WylJUmhqI2vroq5xF2W3Uw83U3Pc.
Nepomuceno, Priam. “AFP Calls ‘Unfair’ Clamors to Scrap VFA.” Balita. October 16, 2014. Accessed November 3, 2014. http://balita.ph/2014/10/16/afp-calls-unfair-clamors-to-scrap-vfa/.
“Sueselbeck, Hiniling Na Payagang Makabalik Ng PH.” YouTube. November 1, 2014. Accessed November 3, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAWVyxWwaPo&list=PLgyY1WylJUmhqI2vroq5xF2W3Uw83U3Pc&index=1.
“Sueselbeck, ‘undesirable alien,’ posibleng ma-blacklist sa PH.” YouTube. October 27, 2014. Accessed November 3, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cujVn7b9sJM&list=PLgyY1WylJUmhqI2vroq5xF2W3Uw83U3Pc&index=6.
“Sundalong itinulak ni Sueselbeck, pinarangalan.” YouTube. October 27, 2014. Accessed November 3, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wa31NZsyPm0&index=4&list=PLgyY1WylJUmhqI2vroq5xF2W3Uw83U3Pc.
“Woman found dead in Bulacan, rape suspected.” YouTube. August 18, 2014. Accessed November 3, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PCPHrok5Ws.