United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said the US will follow the rule of law and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in seeking justice for the death of transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude.
In an interview on the television show Unang Hirit, the envoy on Thursday said the US is committed to follow the 1999 military agreement in the case involving US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, the suspect in the killing of Laude.
Goldberg never mentioned Pemberton’s name, but referred to him as “suspect.”
“First of all, our responsibility under the Visiting Forces Agreement is to make a suspect available for trial. That’s our responsibility, and that’s what we’ll follow. We’ll follow the rule of law. We’re not going to engage in theatrics,” he said after noting that “intruders” tried to enter the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo when Pemberton was transferred to a temporary holding facility there.
Laude’s fiance, Marc Sueselbeck, and his sister on Wednesday climbed the fence at Camp Aguinaldo to get near the container van where Pemberton is being detained.
The Philippines and the US agreed to joint security for Pemberton although his legal custody resides with the US still.
“We should be all focused on making sure that the rule of law is followed to make sure that justice is served, justice for the family, justice for Jennifer Laude,” Goldberg said.
“We are to have that as our goal, [and]not media circuses and the kinds of things and acts that took place yesterday [Wednesday],” he added.
Goldberg said he is cognizant that there is a bereaved family involved and that they are very upset.
“We’ve sent our condolences and we want to see justice done,” he added.
Although Pemberton was transferred to Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday, lawmakers, militant groups and Laude’s family are doubtful whether the US Marine is really in the country.
But Goldberg noted that Philippine Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang and VFA Commission Executive Director Eduardo Oban were in the facility when Pemberton was transferred.
“You have our word on it,” the envoy said.
He added that the agreement negotiated between the Philippines and the US on the detention facility is a sign that Washington is cooperating in accordance with the VFA.
“We tried to do something that would suit the interest of justice, follow the Visiting Forces Agreement, which is a key part of the rule of law because it’s an agreement between two countries, and do it in the way that was sensitive to the interest and needs of both sides, the needs of the Filipino public to know that a suspect is here in the Philippines,” Goldberg said.
“We try to be respectful of all things, concerns and this was the way forward that we thought was best to suit the interest of both sides and to protect the rights of the US serviceman,” he added.