OLONGAPO CITY, Zambales: Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, the US Marine convicted of killing Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in October 2014, sought to post bail but the judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) deferred her decision.
In a hearing on Thursday, RTC Branch 74 Presiding Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde instead ordered the prosecution to submit a comment on the petition in 10 days.
Jabalde also asked the defense lawyers to reply within 10 days upon receiving the comment of the public and private prosecutors on their Omnibus Motion.
Pemberton is seeking bail after he was convicted of homicide on December 1 last year, a downgrade from the more serious charge of murder as the prosecution sought for the death of Laude.
His lawyers, in their Omnibus Motion filed before the court, also sought the reversal of the December 1 decision as well as a reduction of his six to 12-year jail term.
The lawyers insisted their client did not kill Laude in a room of Celzone Lodge where they checked in after they met at the Ambyanz Nightlife Bar in October 2014 while Pemberton and his Marine buddies were on shore leave after participating in joint US-Philippine military exercises.
They said Pemberton deserved a lighter sentence for the death of Laude, citing his immediate surrender to authorities after the incident.
Jabalde, in her verdict read by the clerk of court on December 1, said Pemberton’s conviction is downgraded to homicide as conditions such as cruelty and treachery, which are necessary to qualify the case as murder, were not proven by the prosecution during the trial.
The defense lawyers, however, are still trying to get acquittal for Pemberton, saying he only defended himself because he felt he was being conned but he did not kill Laude.
In case the court upholds the conviction, a consideration from it is also being sought by the camp of Pemberton to reduce his six to 12-year jail sentence because he voluntarily surrendered to authorities and that he had “no intention to commit so grave a wrong.”
A lawyer for the Laude family, Virgie Suarez, sent a text message to the media saying, “The motion for reconsideration [is]simply based on rehashed arguments, which have been raised and argued by the defense in their memorandum and at the same time have already been considered, dissected and rejected by the court.”
She added that with regard to the bail petition, Pemberton should not be allowed bail for having been declared already as an undesirable alien and more important, a very obvious flight risk.
The RTC Branch 74 Clerk of Court, Gerry Gorospe, told The Manila Times there will be no more hearing on the petition for bail but a hearing has been set on January 28 to hear contempt charges filed by the Laude family against an official of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (PCVFA) and 11 American security escorts of Pemberton who defied Jabalde’s initial ruling to send Pemberton to the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila).
The petition, filed by Laude family’s lead lawyer Harry Roque Jr., asked the court to cite retired general Eduardo Oban Jr., executive director of the PCVFA, and the 11 security escorts in indirect contempt for refusing to turn Pemberton over to local authorities after his December 1 conviction.
After reading the verdict on that day, Jabalde directed the Philippine National Police to detain Pemberton at the NBP pending an agreement between the Philippine and US governments on where the Marine would be held.
A standoff ensued when Pemberton’s security escorts refused to hand him over to the local police.
It ended when Jabalde allowed Pemberton to be temporarily held at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Custodial Center in Camp Aguinaldo, the military’s general headquarters in Quezon City.
Jabalde’s December 1 order was later amended after Oban delivered to the court the Philippine-US memorandum of agreement detailing how and where Pemberton would serve his sentence under the terms of the VFA.