PHL dismayed over US rejection of custody request for US Marine

By Michaela P. Del Callar

MANILA, Dec. 17 (PNA) — The Philippine government was dismayed by the United States’ refusal to hand over to Filipino authorities a US marine accused of killing a Filipino transgender woman last October.

“We are disappointed that the US has chosen to invoke their rights under the Visiting Forces Agreement to maintain custody of the accused,” a Department of Foreign Affairs statement on Wednesday said.

The VFA – a defense accord between Manila and Washington that allows American troops to train in the Philippines – states that the US has primary custody of its soldiers involved in criminal cases until the completion of all judicial proceedings.

As provided for under the VFA, Manila asked the US to waive their custody over Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, the primary suspect in the killing of 26-year-old Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, who was found dead inside a motel in Olongapo City where she was last seen with the US serviceman.

With the US’ denial of Manila’s request for custody, the Philippines said it expects America to honor its obligations under the VFA and to ensure that Pemberton is made available for all required investigation and appearances during court trial.

An arrest warrant was issued by the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court on Tuesday.

The DFA said the US Embassy assured that Pemberton, currently detained in Camp Aguinaldo but under the guard of US military personnel, will comply with the requirement of any investigation or judicial proceedings in accordance with Philippine law.

“PFC Pemberton will remain detained in sovereign Philippine territory, and our Armed Forces will actively participate in ensuring that he remains in the agreed detention facility,” the DFA said.

“We will continue to make the necessary representations in support of the judicial process. We will also remain vigilant in ensuring that the US continues to remain faithful to their obligations under the VFA, to ensure that justice is obtained,” it said. (PNA)