TIME indonesia

Indonesian Media Says 8 Foreign Drug Smugglers Executed

Ted Aljibe—AFP/Getty Images Activists hold candles and placards with portraits of Mary Jane Veloso in front of the Indonesian embassy in Manila, Philippines on April 28, 2015.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo rejected clemency appeals

Eight drug convicts, all foreigners, were reportedly executed by firing squad in Indonesia on Wednesday, after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo rejected pleas from foreign governments and thousands of his own citizens to halt the executions.

The inmates, four Nigerians, two Australians, one Brazilian and one Indonesian, were killed on the Nusakambangan prison island early Wednesday, the Jakarta Post reports. But another condemned prisoner, Filipina domestic helper Mary Jane Veloso, was spared at least temporarily after new evidence came to light confirming her claim she was tricked into smuggling drugs.

The executed inmates included Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Australians who were part of the Bali Nine drug-smuggling group. Their former lawyer, Mohammad Irfan, has alleged to the Sydney Morning Herald that judges asked for more than $77,000 in bribes to give the pair a lighter sentence, and he also accuses Jakarta of political interference — once again putting a spotlight on Indonesia’s judicial system, which is largely seen as corrupt.

A Frenchman, Serge Atlaoui, was earlier given a temporary reprieve pending a legal appeal, which was granted after French President François Hollande warned: “If he is executed, there will be consequences with France and Europe.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Nobel Peace Prize laureate (and former East Timorese President) José Ramos-Horta, boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, British tycoon and adventurer Richard Branson and iconic hard-rock guitarist Tony Iommi were among the chorus of foreign leaders, fellow celebrities, local and overseas activists and ordinary people asking that the convicts’ lives be spared.

Families of the condemned came to Nusakambangan to spend the last hours with their loved ones, as police and military stepped up security there and in Cilacap. Chan, who was ordained as minister in the decade he spent at a Bali prison, asked to go to church with his family during his last days, said his brother Michael. As his last wish, Sukumaran, who began painting while incarcerated in Bali, has asked “to paint as long and as much as possible,” his brother Chinthu said. One of his latest self-portraits shown to journalists depicts a harrowing image of the artist shot through the heart.

Read next: Inside Indonesia’s Islamic Boarding School for Transgender People

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Pope Francis

Stop Breeding Like Rabbits? The Pope Misses the Point on Contraception

Giuseppe Cacace—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis adresses journalists sitting onboard a plane during his trip back to Rome, on Jan. 19, 2015.

Emily is Beijing Correspondent at TIME.

It is not the mom of seven who should be scolded for "irresponsibility"

On his flight back to Rome on Monday, Pope Francis offered the press corps some friendly advice on family planning. During his recent travels in the Philippines, he said, he met a mother who risked her life to bear seven children. Chiding her “irresponsibility,” he said the Catholic Church’s prohibition on modern contraception does not mean large families are a must. “Some think, excuse me if I use the word, that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits,” he said. “But no.”

Now, I can’t argue with the Pope on matters of doctrine — that’s his specialty. But in the Philippines, the church’s stance on “artificial” contraception is also a national political issue. And its opposition to the use of things like birth-control pills and condoms is a matter of public health and human rights. From that perspective, his decree is deeply problematic.

The Philippines’ Catholic hierarchy has fought long and hard to restrict access to prophylactics. Over the past few decades, as most countries embraced family planning, the Philippines has moved in the opposite direction, discouraging the use of contraception and prohibiting abortion under any circumstance. They cast condom use as anti-Catholic and anti-Filipino, insisting that couples ought to use “natural methods.” That means abstinence — or abstinence on all but a woman’s least fertile days. (I once got a briefing on this from a bishop; it was awkward.)

Opposition from the church, particularly the influential Catholic Bishops Conference, kept the country’s family-planning bill on the shelves for more than a decade. Yet the Holy See is at odds with the stated preferences of Filipinos. Research suggests that most support voluntary family planning, and surveys show an unmet need, meaning a large number of women would like to control the number and timing of their pregnancies but can’t. That gap is highest (about 25%) among poor women, who, for instance, might be less able to afford pills or condoms, or may be less educated on their use.

The antiprophylactic rhetoric is also at odds with what we know about family planning in terms of public health. As social policy, abstinence does not work. Multiple studies show that without access to affordable, modern methods of contraception, the number of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies rises, as do rates of sexually transmitted infections and unsafe abortions. (Here is a telling case study from Manila.)

Finally, whether she chose to have seven children or did not have other options, the woman Pope Francis met — and all others — are entitled to make their own decisions about reproduction and reproductive health without coercion, danger or disrespect.

“Irresponsibility” is insisting on abstinence at women’s expense.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME The Philippines

The Philippines Is Facing a Terrifying Typhoon Once Again

Reuters Residents with their belongings wait for a government vehicle to bring them to the evacuation center in Tacloban city, central Philippines, on Dec. 4, 2014

Typhoon Hagupit, known locally as Ruby, is threatening parts of the Philippines still recovering from 2013's catastrophic Typhoon Haiyan

Thousands of people are being evacuated from coastal areas of the eastern and central Philippines as Typhoon Hagupit approaches.

The massive storm, called Typhoon Ruby in the Philippines, is packing maximum sustained one-minute wind speeds of 257 km/h (160 m.p.h.) and threatens the very regions that were devastated by Supertyphoon Haiyan just 13 months ago.

The new storm has the potential to cause massive damage with storm surges, heavy rainfall and landslides, meteorologists say. That could lay waste to areas still recovering from last year’s catastrophic storm.

At least 6,300 people died, and 4 million were displaced, when Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Yolanda) crashed into the Visayas with wind speeds exceeding 300 km/h last November. Some 25,000 people in the area are still living in temporary shelters and tents.

Forecasters previously believed that Hagupit would veer north toward Japan, but on Thursday it appeared increasingly likely that it would track through the central Philippines. Hagupit’s intensity has decreased, but the U.S. military’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center still grades it as a Category 5 hurricane — the highest level.

The Philippines’ weather agency has issued public storm signals for 21 geographic areas, mainly along the eastern seaboard, spanning from Luzon in the north to Mindanao in the south. Schools and government offices have closed and people are lining up outside shops and gas stations to stock up on supplies.

“There’s extreme nervousness and anticipation,” says Renee Lambert, who heads the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) office in Tacloban, provincial capital of Eastern Visayas. “However, the memory of what happened during Haiyan has also increased people’s awareness and preparedness.”

Lambert says that people started preparing in earnest on Thursday, and that CRS and other relief organizations are working in close coordination with the local government, schools, churches and communities to find safe shelters.

“There’s no movement of the air at all at the moment, but it’s really heavy and humid,” she says. “People who survived Haiyan say it felt just like this in the days before Haiyan struck.”

Hagupit is expected to make landfall Saturday evening and then move extremely slowly over rugged island terrain toward the capital Manila, increasing the risk of heavy rainfall, landslides and flash floods.

TIME The Philippines

Nearing ‘Super’ Status, Typhoon Hagupit Heads Toward Philippines

A little more than a year since Super Typhoon Haiyan killed thousands and devastated large parts of the Philippines, another storm, Typhoon Hagupit, was bearing down on the Pacific island nation Wednesday morning with sustained winds of 80 mph, the national weather bureau said.

Hagupit — which Ari Sarsalari, a forecaster for The Weather Channel, said could reach “super typhoon” strength before the end of the week — was still about 1,000 miles east of the country and wasn’t expected to begin affecting the weather there until midday Thursday …

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME The Philippines

It’s Been Five Years Since the Maguindanao Massacre and the Perpetrators Are Still Free

Filipino journalists light candles to commemorate the 2nd year anniversary of the "Maguindanao Massacre" at the National Press Club compound in Manila
Erik de Castro—Reuters Filipino journalists light candles to commemorate the second-year anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre at the National Press Club compound in Manila on Nov. 23, 2011

On Nov. 23, 2009, in the southern Philippines, 57 people were killed, most of them journalists. There have been no convictions

The killers used a state-owned backhoe to dig a pit, then shoved the bodies in. When investigators arrived on the scene of Nov. 23, 2009, massacre in Ampatuan — a small town in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao — they found the bullet-riddled corpses of 57 men and women, dozens of whom were journalists.

It has now been five years since the worst-ever act of election violence in the Philippine history, and the worst recorded attack on journalists the world has known. By now, the awful details of what happened that day are well established: 57 people, en route to register an opposition candidate for an upcoming election — or, in the case of journalists, to cover that registration — were stopped, executed by gunmen, and buried on site. It was a brutal, sloppy job; the executioners, it seems, were not worried about getting caught.

Five years on, that culture of impunity persists. Though the Philippine’s popular President, Benigno Aquino III, promised swift action on the case, there have been no convictions. Lawyers for the clan accused of orchestrating the massacre — who, like the town are also called Ampatuan — have successfully stalled as prosecutors scramble to hold together their case while assailants track and target witnesses. (Many of the alleged masterminds plead not guilty on charges related to the deaths and deny involvement.)

The trial is a case study in intimidation and abuse. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and have others documented multiple attempts to silence witnesses with cash. Where that fails: violence. Four witnesses have already been killed, including Dennix Sakal, once a driver for one of the chief suspects, who was this month shot to death as he drove to meet state prosecutors. “Dead men tell no tales,” was the bitter remark of the National Press Club.

Even before the killings in Maguindanao, the Philippines was considered one of the world’s worst countries for journalists. More than 100 journalists have been killed in the line of duty since the 1980s, according to local rights groups, and those who target media personnel usually go unpunished. The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that upwards of 90% of killers walk free.

Part of the problem is that swaths of the country are controlled by political clans with private armies and legal protection. A 2010 HRW investigation into the Maguindanao killings described them as “an atrocity waiting to happen.” The 96-page report was titled They Own People — a reference to family that, with the help of local police and military personnel, “has controlled life and death in Maguindanao for more than two decades.”

Aquino was supposed to stop this. Early in his term, the scion of an altogether different political family promised to eliminate private armies that thrived under his predecessors, and to pursue justice for Maguindanao. But his government’s handling of the Maguindanao case, as well as the use of violence against media in general, is seen by ordinary people and rights activists alike as a striking and somewhat perplexing failure. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) says that 23 journalists were killed in the first 40 months of Aquino’s tenure — the worst rate since 1986.

Asked about violence against journalists during a press conference with President Obama last spring, Aquino bungled his reply. First, he said that “something like 52 journalists,” were killed at Maguindanao, when the total dead was 57, of which no more than 32 were journalists. Many were surprised by his confusion over a basic fact about an atrocity that, as the PCIJ describes it, “put the Philippines on the world map.”

He then appeared to suggest that the journalists who were killed were corrupt and that this was the reason justice was slow in coming. “Perhaps we are very sensitive to personal relationships by the people who are deceased who were killed not because of professional activities, but shall we say, other issues,” he said.

Graft has been endemic in Philippine journalism for years, but the unfounded suggestion — if that it what it was — that the reporters killed at Maguindanao were corrupt, or that they somehow brought about their own fate, or that they deserved less than swift, sure justice, is naturally outrageous and the President’s comments have appalled the Philippine media corps.

“The lack of justice in Maguindano has merely emboldened those who would kill journalists,” says Shawn Crispin, an adviser for the Committee to Protect Journalists who has investigated the case. “If they can’t prosecute worst ever massacre of media personnel in the history of the world, what message do you send?”

TIME The Philippines

Tacloban Survived the World’s Strongest Recorded Storm, but Only Just

Per Liljas Eric and Roby Mameta by their house in Tacloban, in the Philippines, on Oct. 8, 2014, next to one of the ships that were washed ashore by supertyphoon Haiyan

The Philippine city hardest hit by Supertyphoon Haiyan a year ago is still struggling to come to terms with what happened

Darkness settles over the Philippine city of Tacloban and over Ameberto Atchecoso’s mind. His life, as he knew it, ended on Nov. 8 last year, when Supertyphoon Haiyan ripped through the provincial capital of Eastern Visayas. As always, during a major typhoon, his wife left their wooden house to take shelter one of the ward’s sturdy concrete buildings, while Atchecoso stayed back to protect their belongings.

“But we weren’t prepared for the water,” he says.

In a matter of minutes, their house was flooded and sucked out toward the ocean. Atchecoso was swept into the onrushing swell, but managed to regain his footing and make it to another building down the street, dodging debris flying in the air. An hour later, when the worst had passed, he found that the house where his wife had been taking shelter was completely submerged, leaving no survivors.

“Since then I can’t sleep, so I drink every night,” he says.

Supertyphoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, made landfall as the most ferocious storm in recorded history, when it lashed Eastern Visayas with wind speeds exceeding 300 km/h. A tsunami-like storm-surge deluged communities along the eastern seaboards of Leyte and Samar islands, claiming at least 6,300 lives and displacing 4 million people.

International responders have since managed to feed and find emergency shelter for the affected population. Cash-for-work programs saw a clearing of debris in a matter of weeks. There’s been no major outbreak of disease. But that doesn’t mean that everything is O.K.

“The government money that’s beginning to flow into the area needs to be invested in proper rebuilding,” says Julie Lyn Hall, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative in the Philippines. “The worry is that we’re starting to lose momentum. Without a further push, we’ll leave services dangerously vulnerable. And as the initial period of survival is starting to pass, despair is becoming more apparent.”

Tacloban was the hardest hit of all affected communities. Located at the end of a narrow bay, it took the brunt of the storm surge that was up to 7 m high. Concrete houses were reduced to their skeletons, and others flattened to the ground. For weeks, the city was smothered in debris, its air saturated by the nauseating stench of putrefying corpses. Mobs of desperate inhabitants scoured the streets for nourishment, picking clean every mall, warehouse or mom-and-pop store in their way. Some held up and pillaged from trucks that were bringing in aid.

Ronald Barsana saws felled coconut trees in Maslog, the Philippines, on Oct. 6, 2014
Per LiljasRonald Barsana saws felled coconut trees in Maslog, the Philippines, on Oct. 6, 2014.

Today, many parts of Tacloban are teeming with the hustle and bustle of commerce, and construction sites are dominating the cityscape. But Bernardita Valenzuela, information chief at the City Hall, emphasizes that this is but a superficial impression.

“It looks good, but underneath we’re still lacking food, safe housing and livelihood,” she says.

Since there are no local revenues to speak of, Tacloban is almost wholly dependent on external assistance. Frustration is growing over a lagging dispersal of recovery funds.

“The international community saved us from falling flat on our faces,” Valenzuela says. “But our own national government has not helped, and that for me is unpardonable.” A power drill almost drowns out her words. “We received a check to repair the City Hall, civic center and public markets, but that’s not what we need. We can work even if this building doesn’t have a nice facade, but 800 families still live in tents. For me, that’s heart wrenching.”

Valenzuela shares the view of many locals that the absence of funding has to do with the long-standing feud between the families of Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. Romualdez’ uncle, former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, is widely believed to have had a hand in the execution of Aquino’s father. Marc Singer, a senior analyst at Pacific Strategies and Assessments (PSA), says that the central government clearly had “no great love” for Tacloban before Haiyan, but highlights still another reason for the delayed release of monies.

“The administration came to power on a clear anticorruption platform,” he says. “Two months after Haiyan, the construction of resettlement homes came to a halt amid allegations of price rigging and corruption. Since then the government has been very cautious about allocating funds, and delays in the recovery also persist due to bureaucracy and a lack of resources.”

On Oct. 30, President Aquino finally approved a $3.8 billion plan, supported mainly by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, to rebuild infrastructure, resettle a million people and provide livelihood assistance. Some 25,000 people across the province still live in transitional housing. Another 200,000 or so live in partially repaired but ramshackle dwellings in zones deemed unsafe for habitation. They are all extremely vulnerable to new storms. Only a tenth of all evacuation centers are still usable in a region extremely prone not only to typhoons, but also volcanoes, landslides, floods and earthquakes. Finding safe land is an enormous challenge.

“If you overlap maps of all hazards you will find that there is no available land that is not prone to disaster,” says Luiza Carvalho, the U.N.’s resident and humanitarian coordinator.

While the international community came together for an unprecedented mobilization of relief, donor fatigue has now set in. The U.N.’s Strategic Response Plan has only received about half of the funds it requires.

“Unfortunately, the resources are lagging behind for the recovery phase,” says Carvalho. “Twenty-six percent of our funds have come from individuals, and that’s fantastic, but most of that’s been earmarked for the humanitarian response.”

Among the international development community, Haiyan is now being talked about as “the new normal.” The Philippines is hit by more typhoons than any other country, and their frequency and severity are seemingly increasing. In the two years leading up to Haiyan, two other supertyphoons pummeled the country. A study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology notes that the intensity of typhoons over the past 40 years has increased by 25%, and the duration of the storms has extended. Earlier this fall, Supertyphoon Vongfang bypassed the Philippines at the last minute, averting a humanitarian crisis potentially worse than the one wrought by Haiyan.

Mayor Romualdez, whose home was also gutted in the storm, has become something of a spokesperson for disaster-prone cities in international climate panels during the past year. He is advocating a global climate discussion at the local government level, and spending on advance planning rather than relief.

“You have to start asking why millions of lives continue to perish while billions of dollars are being spent,” he tells TIME. “If you plan smarter cities you end up spending only 10% when disaster strikes. You have to see this as an investment, not a cost. Like vaccination and prevention instead of waiting for the emergency.”

Carvalho agrees. “Mitigation programs are often not as popular as resilience and disaster-risk reduction programs, but they can be efficient,” she says.

While an impressive total of $3.04 billion has been allocated for climate-change adaption and mitigation programs, there is little immediate comfort for the region’s working poor. Around 1 million people made their livings from the now devastated coconut plantations. For generations, people have been relying on the trees’ steady yield of nuts, leaves and edible sap. Withstanding extreme weather for up to a hundred years, the slender, flexible trunks were a metaphor of the inhabitants’ own resilience. However, the record-breaking winds of Haiyan proved too fierce, and rendered 15 million trees unproductive.

“We used to lead a simple, happy life before the storm,” says Lerio Sabulao, barangay captain, or neighborhood leader, in the little village of Maslog on the island of Samar. “The coco trees provided 80% of our income. Now we’re totally reliant on fishing — except there’s not that much fish as before either.”

Per LiljasRonald Barsana sows a coconut seedling in Maslog, the Philippines, on Oct. 5, 2014.

In the outskirts of the village, Ronald Barsana heaps a thin layer of soil on top of a sprouting coconut. Fully grown trees are scattered like jackstraws around him. His economic security, a plantation inherited from his grandparents, was demolished during one exceptionally stormy night.

“When I saw the destruction, I thought, All is lost, we’re going to starve,” he says.

The first months after the typhoon, a well-wisher lent Barsana a chainsaw, with which he cut up his felled trees and built new houses both for himself and others. But money for further houses quickly evaporated, which meant that his logs started to rot.

“The life as a farmer was tough already before the storm,” he says. “I dream that my children will finish school, unlike me.”

However, these days, eking a living off taro and other vegetables he’s planted on the little slope behind his house, that dream seems far away. He can only afford two meals a day, let alone school supplies for his children. And his coconut seedlings will not carry fruit for another five to 10 years.

Aid organizations and the Philippine government are ramping up programs to provide affected populations in the countryside with employment. Richard S. Bolt, country director at the Asian Development Bank, acknowledges the enormous challenge to get the region’s coconut farmers back on their feet. But he also sees opportunities to “diversify away from relatively low-productivity coconut and introduce new higher-yielding varieties, as well as better institutional arrangements for organizing farmers to disseminate better production practices.”

Steven Rood of the Asia Foundation also sees hopes for the medium and long term. “The macro-economic outlook is good, insofar as direct government work, direct cash transfers, increased school spending and health spending will be helping the poorest the most. A better investment in human capital, even for rice and coconut farmers, can quickly make a discernible change.”

PSA’s Singer points out that the region was the second poorest in the Philippines before the typhoon.

“When we’re talking about rebuilding, and building back better, we need an appreciation of what was there before. The Eastern Visayas has always been an economic backwater, producing less than 3% of the nation’s GDP.”

And in the meantime, Haiyan’s survivors must learn to process their grief.

“Everyone who came here has been surprised by the Filipinos’ remarkable resilience and willingness to pick themselves up and start afresh,” says Hall of WHO. “But people are beginning to be very low, and there’s a great need of mental-health services. The one-year anniversary of the typhoon, Christmas and the Pope’s visit in January will be very important to help them get through these tough times.”

So will music. R&B streams out from a function room in an upscale restaurant in Tacloban. The City Hall choir and a five-man band are rehearsing for the commemorative ceremony on Nov. 8. Whitney Houston is mixed in with old Filipino hits.

“I get goose bumps and almost start crying when I sing some of these songs,” says 17-year-old Maria Teresa Roben. “Not a day goes by that I’m not thinking of the typhoon and all the children that died, [including] my classmate. The sound when the water entered our house, the hopelessness and feeling that I was going to die. Before, I didn’t believe in God, but now I pray every day.”

Mayor Romualdez is present, as he is during most rehearsals.

“We have to protect our next generation so they can strive for the Filipino Dream,” he says. “Their peace of mind is extremely important. They have to be able to sleep without fearing a new flood.”

The one-year anniversary of a relative’s death is called babang luksa in the Philippines, and is an important date typically observed with rituals. For this babang luksa, the mayor’s office in Tacloban is organizing a commemorative walk, a memorial service by the main mass grave and a large candle-lighting ceremony. It is expected to draw a great crowd, but some prefer to spend the day alone. Ameberto Atchecoso is going to light candles by the building where his wife died. Then he is going to slaughter the pig he bought as part of their retirement fund.

There’s so much talk about the future in Tacloban, but all ordinary people like Atchecoso can think about is the here and now.

TIME The Philippines

See the Philippine City of Tacloban One Year After Supertyphoon Haiyan

Photographer Chris McGrath captures the slow resurrection of Tacloban

Supertyphoon Haiyan became the strongest storm on record to make landfall when it crashed into the eastern Philippines on Nov. 8 last year, with wind speeds exceeding 300 kph and a 7-meter storm surge. The city of Tacloban, provincial capital of the Eastern Visayas, bore the brunt of its devastating power and was practically destroyed.

Photographer Chris McGrath documented the death and destruction immediately following the typhoon. One year later, he returned to capture the same scenes, painting a picture of a city that, at least on the surface, has returned to some semblance of normality.

TIME The Philippines

U.S. Marine Asks for Lesser Charge in Killing of Transgender Filipina

Lorgina Minguito—Reuters Activists participate in a protest to seek justice for a Filipina transgender Jennifer Laude outside a justice hall where a preliminary investigation was held at the Philippine city of Olongapo, north of Manila, on Oct. 27, 2014

The high-profile killing has sparked protests in the Philippines

The U.S. Marine accused of killing a transgender Filipina has asked prosecutors to reduce the murder charge to homicide if the case is brought to court, since there is no “probable cause for murder.”

Lawyers for Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton presented the motion at a preliminary hearing in the northern Philippine city of Olongapo on Monday, Rappler reports. Pemberton did not attend the hearing.

Jennifer Laude, 26, was found strangled and drowned on Oct. 11 in a motel bathroom where witnesses last placed her together with Pemberton. The case has become politically charged because of a defense agreement giving the U.S. military custody over the suspect.

Last week, Pemberton was transferred to a Philippine military base, and he is now detained at the Philippines’ military headquarters in Manila under joint custody.

According to Philippine broadcaster ABS-CBN, Pemberton’s lawyer Rowena Garcia Flores said he did not file an expected counter-affidavit because he had not yet had the “opportunity to examine the case.”

Laude’s killing has sparked widespread protests against the defense agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines, and has also led to calls for greater protection for LGBT people in the country.

On Monday, Laude’s German boyfriend, Marc Suselbeck, was charged with gross arrogance and serious disrespect to Filipino authorities after climbing the fence surrounding the camp where Pemberton was held, and shoving a military guard, the Philippine Star reports.

TIME The Philippines

Philippine Transgender Murder Becomes a Rallying Point for LGBT Rights

Aaron Favila—AP A Filipino activist holds flowers and a slogan during prayers in suburban Quezon city, Philippines on Thursday Oct. 23, 2014, to call for justice for the killing of Filipino transgender Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude.

Activists say the death of Jennifer Laude highlights the vulnerable position of trans people in the Philippines

The burial of transgender woman Jennifer Laude has sparked a “National Day of Outrage” in the Philippines, with LGBT organizations staging candlelight vigils across the country on Friday.

A U.S. Marine has been accused of her killing.

“We will deliver messages of solidarity and push for justice,” says Charlese Saballe, chairwoman of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP). “The media attention to Jennifer’s case means a slow movement toward bringing transgender issues to the mainstream.”

Following Laude’s Oct. 11 murder, media have mostly focused on the fact that suspect Joseph Scott Pemberton has been held under U.S. guard, under a defense agreement between the two countries. Loud criticism has been raised over the agreement, with protesters attempting to carry a mock coffin to the U.S. embassy in Manila on Friday.

However, as Steven Rood, the Asia Foundation’s representative in the Philippines, points out, much of that will blow over.

“There’s the sensitivity of not treating Filipinos as second-class citizens in their own country,” he says. “But the backdrop is that the average Filipino citizen is very much in favor of having U.S. troops here. This doesn’t threaten U.S.-Filipino relations; the strategic benefits for the alliance will override this specific issue.”

Rather, some people hope that the strong bilateral connection between the two countries could impact the LGBT rights struggle in the Philippines. LGBT groups have participated in several protests outside the U.S. embassy in Manila and at vigils in the U.S.

“If media and other groups in the U.S. frame [Laude’s murder] as a hate crime and focuses on transgender rights, it might trickle down to people in society here and affect how they treat transgender and LGBT people,” says Saballe.

While visible, LGBT people in the Philippines lack anti-discriminatory legislation and the legal recognition of transgender available in many other countries, including the U.S.

“[Seen] with American eyes, the position of the LGBT community in the Philippines is an unusual one,” says Rood. “It’s a normal part of the Filipino community, but the violence they may be subjected to has not been very visible. This will certainly be a rallying cry.”

Saballe, whose organization also monitors violence against LGBT people in the Philippines, stresses that the community is “not really accepted in society.” She adds, “Only days after Jennifer was killed, two other trans women were murdered.”

Friday’s protest action is being held simultaneously in four cities in the Philippines, with a solidarity event also arranged in the Netherlands and a discussion forum in Thailand.

TIME The Philippines

Witness Says Suspect U.S. Marine Didn’t Know Murdered Filipina Was Transgender

A primary witness in the high-profile murder case gave testimony to a Philippine Senate hearing today

A friend of murdered Filipina Jennifer Laude testified that the American suspect, who went out with the two of them on the night of the crime, didn’t know that they were transgender.

Mark Clarence Gelviro made her statement during a Philippine Senate hearing Wednesday and also identified U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton in a photo lineup, reports online news portal InterAksyon.

Pemberton allegedly met Laude and Gelviro on Oct. 11 at a bar in Subic Bay, a port that often hosts U.S. warships. He was visiting for a joint military exercise involving 4,000 American soldiers and sailors. Gelviro claimed to the hearing that Pemberton was drunk but friendly, and that he “thought we were real women.”

The three of them then allegedly went to a motel in nearby Olongapo City, where Gelviro said she left the two others alone in a room. Gelviro claims that, a little while later, the motel cashier notified her that Pemberton had left and that Laude was unconscious in the room, her head submerged in the toilet bowl.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who chaired the hearing, later said she considered the evidence against the suspect “damning,” reports the Philippine Star.

The now almost two-week-old case has stoked massive criticism over a bilateral agreement that allows the U.S. to keep custody of military personnel accused of committing crimes on Philippine soil. Pemberton was transferred Wednesday to a Philippine military base, but is still being guarded by American servicemen.

“We have our own guards, and yet they don’t seem to trust them,” said Defensor Santiago according to Asia One. “And we’re in our own country, not America.”

Philippine President Benigno Aquino rebutted claims that local authorities were going too easy on the suspect at a foreign correspondent’s forum in Pasig City on Wednesday.

“He is not being treated with kid gloves,” Aquino said, “and the Americans, may I reiterate, are conforming to the [Visiting Forces Agreement under which] they have to make this person and others available for both the investigative and the judicial processes that are forthcoming.”

Meanwhile, Jennifer Laude’s sister Michelle testified to the panel that the victim was not a sex worker. During the year leading up to her murder, she had barely been outside the house, Michelle said, claiming that Jennifer was subsisting on a monthly allowance from her fiancé.

Read next: Laverne Cox Talks to TIME About the Transgender Movement

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