BAGUIO CITY: The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the Philippine government to explain why US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton is being detained in Camp Aguinaldo, not in a regular jail.
Pemberton is held at the Mutual Defense Board (MDB) and Security Engagement Board (SEB) facility in Camp Aguinaldo–general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)–on the basis of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
The US insists that the VFA provides for their custody of American servicemen until completion of all judicial proceedings.
Pemberton was accused of killing Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in October 2014.
After en banc deliberations on Tuesday, the SC ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs, Malacanang and the AFP to submit their comments within 10 days.
The Laude family elevated the case to the High Court after Olongapo Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Roline Jimenez-Jabalde rejected their plea for Pemberton’s detention in a regular jail.
The SC petition was filed by Marilou and Mesehilda Laude.
“The court required respondents to comment within ten (10) days from notice on the petition for certiorari with prayer for the issuance of mandatory injunction dated April 16, 2015, seeking to annul the orders dated December 23, 2014 and February 16, 2015 of respondent RTC Judge,” the ruling stated.
In their petition, the Laude family insisted that the Philippine government should have custody of US military personnel charged with cases such as murder while these cases are being heard by the courts.
“The refusal of Philippine authorities, including the respondent judge to place respondent Pemberton in the custody of Philippine jail authorities on the basis of the VFA is unconstitutional, on the grounds that it undermines the constitutional powers of courts to hear a jurisdictional matter brought before [them]and more important, it undermines the court’s powers to promulgate rules for the practice of law,” according to the Laude petition.
It asked the SC to issue a writ of mandatory injunction ordering Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, AFP chief Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and a prosecutor to “immediately work out and effect” Pemberton’s turnover while he is being tried for murder by the Olongapo court.
“Consequently, as respondent Pemberton is charged with murder–a nonbailable crime–it is essential that the respondent judge order the transfer of custody of the accused to the Olongapo City Jail, as custody is a means by which the trial court exercises its jurisdiction over accused,” the petition said.