• Govt asserts custody over US serviceman

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    FACEOFF:Students push against a phalanx of policemen who stopped them from getting near the US Embassy in Manila on Tuesday. Members of the League of Filipino Students staged a protest rally to demand that the US Marine linked to the killing of a transgender in Olongapo City be turned over to the Philippine government.  PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

    FACEOFF:Students push against a phalanx of policemen who stopped them from getting near the US Embassy in Manila on Tuesday. Members of the League of Filipino Students staged a protest rally to demand that the US Marine linked to the killing of a transgender in Olongapo City be turned over to the Philippine government. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

    The Philippine government will seek custody of a US Marine linked to the killing of a transgender in Olongapo City, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Tuesday.

    The suspect was identified by the Philippine National Police (PNP) as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton from the 2nd Batallion, 9th Marines, based in Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

    Pemberton was reported to have been the last person seen with the victim, Jeffrey Laude, in Olongapo City, Zambales, on Saturday night.

    Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said the government will ask the US to turn over the Marine to Philippine authorities when a criminal complaint against Pemberto has been filed.

    “We plan to do that. We will request them to give him over to us. We will request but there’s no guarantee that they will grant it,” Jose added.

    The case is a fresh test for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), an accord signed by the Philippines and US in 1999 covering legal liability of US forces in the Philippines.

    The VFA gives the Philippines jurisdiction over US troops who commit crimes not linked to their official duties but it also says custody of these Americans will remain with the US government.

    The agreement does state that in “extraordinary cases,” the Philippines can ask for custody.

    Under the agreement, if a member of the US military shall be found guilty by a Philippine court, the sentence will be served in an agreed jail.

    “The offense is more serious this time, so we will really do our [best]to make sure justice will be served,” Jose said, comparing Laude’s case with that of Suzette Nicolas, who accused Lance Corporal Daniel Smith of raping her in 2005.

    “I think we have stronger reasons this time considering the person died,” he added.

    Eduardo Oban Jr., the executive director of the Presidential Commission on the VFA, said Pemberton would have been placed under the custody of Philippine authorities if he had not been detained first by US authorities.

    Pemberton is restricted to the USS Peleliu, along with three other possible witnesses to the crime.

    But even if Pemberton is with US authorities, Oban said the Philippine government can request custody of the Marine.

    “It’s just a matter of time when we will have to submit our position to American authorities. There is an ongoing investigation. When we are done with the investigation, then perhaps we can communicate that [request]with the American authorities,” he explained.

    Oban said the Philippines will have jurisdiction over the case, which means Pemberton will be tried “under Philippine laws by Philippine courts.”

    Malacañang on Tuesday also vowed to seek justice for the victim by getting to the bottom of the case.

    Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said it is important for the government to solve the crime and find justice “in the killing of a Filipino citizen.”

    He also gave assurances that the investigation will be transparent.

    “The detailed processes outlined in the VFA [that]have the ultimate goal to serve justice when crimes are committed will be followed,” Coloma added.

    “The VFA contains specific provisions on the legal processes to ensure that justice will prevail. The Philippine government is firmly committed to attain this objective,” he said.

    But the Palace official defended the VFA, noting that the crime should not discourage the country “from its determination to build a national defense that is in the interest of all Filipinos.”

    “The government stands by the view that [the VFA]is an integral part of the Philippines’ national defense framework, and if there are particular incidents like this wherein our laws are broken, there will also be particular provisions on how to resolve these incidents,” Coloma said.

    Prescriptive period
    Sen. Francis Escudero called on authorities not to waste time in building a case against Pemberton to ensure that the latter will not escape prosecution.

    Article V, Section 6 of the VFA or the criminal jurisdiction clause limits to one year the resolution of cases involving members of the US military.

    He reiterated his appeal to the DFA to review and seek amendment to the 16-year-old pact, which he said is lopsided against the Philippines.

    At the same time, the Defense department defended the annual military drills participated in by American and Filipino soldiers.

    “We call on all concerned not to lose sight of the bigger picture and to look at these [PH-US exercises, Laude’s killing] as different issues. We look at it in its proper perspective,” Defense spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez also on Tuesday said in reaction to calls by some quarters to put a stop to the joint military exercises.

    Galvez maintained that the killing should not be equated to the yearly military drills between the Philippines and US.

    “If there are no exercises, nobody will help us in developing our capabilities,” he said.

    “It’s a very unfortunate incident, We extend our deepest condolences on the family of the victim and we fully support a proper and thorough investigation,” Galvez added.

    WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA, WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL AND CATHERINE S. VALENTE

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    5 Comments

    1. I have doubts if the US will turn him to the local authorities. Uncle Sam is our sugar daddy. It the US decides to withdraw from the VFA, how now can the Philippines protect itself from Chinese aggression? This crimes committed by US servicemen or other foreign troops in the country is always a sticking point. The VFA agreement as I read in the past does not allow the custody of US servicemen under local authorities or courts if they committed a crime. We are unfortunately the underdog here because of our standing in the world as a 3rd world country under the aid of the US our former colonial master. Just as what I have been writing. Had our politicians and leadership modernized the AFP after the closure of the US bases 20 yrs ago then we do not need them to return today and China will have a hard time seizing our reefs and islets in search for gas and oil. But since we have the most ill equipped armed forces in the region nobody really respect us. We did this to ourselves.

    2. I find it so strange how big an issue you make of it when a foreigner kills a filipino over when a filipino kills a fliipino. We had a gay guy from our subdivision murdered in a very henious way a couple of months ago, yet it merrited not a word on the news or newspapers. He was shot 6 times mostly in his face & was dragged a long distance by a vehicle along the road scraping lots of his skin off his body. I wonder if his death will be treated with the same passion as this one committed by a foreigner, i very much doubt it, because this is the philippines.

      • Other Filipino’s murdered and so many foreigners murdered here and it never makes the news and certainly no task force to solve it. There is a huge list of foreigners murdered here that are never even investigated including A Canadian and his entire family in Angeles City. This past month two foreigners were shot dead on a beach in Mindanao while they were just going for a walk.

        This smacks of the Smith rape case which it was found during the trial it never happened. Within 30 hours the body of the bakla was embalmed and put on display. No forensic autopsy? Still no cause of death but Filipino’s are ready for the blood of the U.S. Marine. I hope this won’t be another black eye on the Philippines like the Smith trial and the handling of the Chinese bus hostage debacle.

    3. First degree murder is still a capital crime punishable by death. I know in some countries like Mexico they will not allow their citizen to be tried on other countries if they’ll be executed. However, US didn’t have any exception to their extradition treaty with the Philippines. On the rape case was an exception it did not involved a minor and the victim live to tell her story. I’d say the Philippines should not “try their best” – the word is use force to get the killer and tried for his crime. We’re not a “so-so” country, we must enforce our laws so foreigners will not take us for granted and disrespectful of our laws. Eye for an eye on this case and death should be carried out. Remember Pres. Marcos executed a chinese national druglord for a capital crime committed. As a reminder Pnoy should set a high standard – it’s serious business.

      • How can you say the Smith rape victim. Smith was the victim as it was found out the whole thing was a lie. Just ask Nichole how traumatized she is while she sits in Camp Pendleton Calif with her U.S. Marine husband.