OLONGAPO CITY: THE legal counsel of US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton on Monday said there is no basis to charge her client with murder and asked the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office to downgrade the criminal
complaint to be filed against him to homicide.
Pemberton, the lone suspect in the slaying of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude last October 11, did not show up in the second preliminary hearing of the case also on Monday.
He also waived his right to submit a counter-affidavit.
Instead of submitting a counter-affidavit, defense counsel Rowena Garcia-Flores filed before the five-man prosecution panel motions for clarification of the murder complaint, declaration of no-probable cause and downgrading the murder charge to homicide.
Murder carries a maximum penalty of life in prison while the maximum penalty for homicide is 20 years.
Pemberton, who had just finished participating in US-Philippine military exercises near Olongapo, was the last person seen with Laude.
The head of the preliminary investigation rejected Pemberton’s pleas.
“We will rule on probable cause after we complete the process. Don’t teach us what to do,” chief prosecutor Fe de los Santos told Pemberton’s lawyer.
“The bottom line is we will go on with the preliminary investigation,” she said.
In the third preliminary hearing set for November 5, prosecutors will inspect the lodge where Laude was found dead.
The Laude family, along with lawyer Harry Roque and Jennifer’s boyfriend Marc Sueselbeck, attended the hearing.
Pemberton is being detained in a container van in Camp Aguinaldo, the
headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Quezon City.
AFP chief Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. also on Monday said they were advised by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to refrain from issuing any statements on the Pemberton case.
The gag order took effect on Sunday, four days after Sueselbeck and Laude’s sister Marilou successfully scaled the security perimeter fence inside the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) facility in Camp Aguinaldo where Pemberton is being held.
“The order came from the DFA, they said that our job is only to secure [Pemberton] so we should not comment about the case,” Catapang said.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc explained the restriction has nothing to do with the fence-climbing incident and that the DFA is the right agency to tackle custody, jurisdiction and other issues pertaining to Pemberton.
WITH WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL AND AFP