NEWS about US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton receiving a deportation order from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) had me going back to the case of Jennifer Laude, who was found dead in the bathroom of an Olongapo motel on October 11 2014. Pemberton was the last person who saw Jennifer alive.
It surprised me to find that in fact the family of Jennifer had, a year ago, asked that the BI declare Pemberton “an undesirable alien of the most repulsive kind” given the “gruesome murder of a <Filipino> citizen.” (harryroque.com, 29 Oct 2014)
Close to a year after, the BI finally grants this request.
More than a year after Jennifer’s murder, we are still waiting for justice to be served.
The case against Pemberton
A review of this case, painful as it is, seems to be in order. Lest we forget what Pemberton is accused of doing.
Lest we forget Jennifer Laude.
On October 11, 2014, Jennifer’s body was found slumped over the toilet in Celzone Lodge in Olongapo. She was seen entering the lodge with Pemberton. She was seen getting into a room with Pemberton. He would be seen leaving the room 30 minutes after.
When the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office found probable cause to charge Pemberton with the murder of Jennifer, City Prosecutor Emilie delos Santos explained that “the crime was qualified as murder because there was treachery, abuse of superior strength, and cruelty.” (GMANewsOnline, 15 Dec 2014) The resolution also stated that:
“A sudden attack against an unarmed victim constitutes treachery…. The means employed by Pemberton show it was employed to discount any possibility of retaliation or escape. <…> “He did not stop at badly beating her up and choking her. He made sure she suffered to her death. He deliberately and repeatedly plunged her head down the toilet until she breathed her last.” (GMANewsOnline, 15 Dec 2014)
During the trial, it was revealed that Pemberton himself admitted to the possibility of having killed Laude, telling Lance Corporal Jairn Michael Rose: “I think I killed a he or she.” (Philstar.com, 15 May)
On August 24, Pemberton told his story in court. Via Atty. Harry Roque, as reported on CNN Philippines:
“Pemberton admitted that he had oral sex with Laude. <…> It was when Pemberton and Laude were about to have ‘contact’ that Pemberton discovered that Laude was not biologically female and that Laude still had male genitalia.
“Pemberton then pushed Laude out of the bed. At this point Laude slapped Pemberton, which prompted the U.S. marine to punch Laude and choke her before dragging her to the restroom. <…> Pemberton insisted that his acts were all a matter of self-defense.
“Pemberton further testified that he dragged Laude’s body into the bathroom of their motel room in an attempt to revive her with water.” (CNNPhilippines.com, 25 Aug)
Via the Philippine Daily Inquirer:
“Pemberton said that on Oct. 11, 2014, he went to the mall and several bars as part of his ‘liberty time.’ After going to several bars, he went back to the mall and later went to Ambyanz Resto Bar where he met ‘two women,’ one of whom was Laude.
“He said Laude and the other unidentified woman went with him to Cellzone Lodge where one of the women performed oral sex on him. After the woman left, Pemberton and Laude were left alone inside the hotel room, where Laude also began (sic) performed oral sex on him.
“During the sex act, Pemberton said, he reached down between Laude’s legs and discovered that his sex partner had a penis. According to Pemberton, he got angry–feeling that he was being raped by another man.
“The American said he pushed Laude but the latter retaliated by slapping him.
Pemberton said he then choked Laude. When he saw that she was no longer moving, he dragged her to the comfort room where he poured water on Laude in the hopes of reviving her.” (Inquirer.net, 24 Aug)
Singapore-based NCIS agent Jeremy Dastrup confirmed the findings of “American medical and forensic experts that Pemberton bore scratches, injuries and lacerations.” These “findings indicated that Pemberton bore minimal defensive wounds.” (Philstar.com, 22 June)
In service of whom?
The BI’s declaration that Pemberton is undesirable alien who will now an be blacklisted and who will be deported comes two months before we expect a decision on this case in December.
And one can’t help but wonder: who does this declaration serve exactly, and in what ways might it serve the defense instead of the prosecution at this point in time? Because a year after it was requested by the family of Jennifer, what does this decision allow Pemberton to do that he isn’t being allowed to do now?
According to the BI decision: “A serious charge such as that of undesirability warrants a predisposition to violence as to amount to a serious risk to public interest or “affect or injure the security, welfare or interest of the state. <…> Or where an alien’s continued presence in the Philippines would not make for the safety, welfare, happiness, or good order of Philippine society. There is no question that an alien charged with murder poses a risk to public safety and order and should be deported without delay for being a menace to society.”
Deported without delay. Yes, the decision states that Pemberton’s deportation is “subject to the issuance of a clearance from the Regional Trial Court, Branch 74, Olongapo City and other appropriate government agencies.” And yet one can’t help but be distressed by the timing of this decision, especially since what we demand is not only a conviction, but that Pemberton serve time in the Philippines.
One remains hopeful for Jennifer Laude’s case. But because we’re in the Philippines, we’ve also been trained to expect the worst.