MANILA, Dec 17 (Mabuhay) – The Visiting Forces Agreement between provided for the Philippines asking for sole custody of a US serviceman in conflict with the country’s laws in “extraordinary” situations, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said on Wednesday.
De Lima said Filipino officials are now talking with their counterparts in the US Embassy to ask for custody over newly promoted US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, the subject of an arrest warrant for the killing in October of a Filipino transgender woman in Olongapo City.
“To me, enough circumstances na ito. Ito ay murder, the qualifying circumstance na murder and not homicide,” De Lima said, stressing that “treachery and cruelty subjected to a Filipino” were enough to consider the case out of the ordinary.
“That’s my position at my level,” the justice secretary said.
De Lima said the Philippine government should insist on having custody over Pemberton “but within the purview of the VFA.”
Pemberton is facing a murder charge before the Regional Trial Court in the city.
De Lima said the Philippines had every right under the Visiting Forces Agreement to get a hold of Pemberton given the “extraordinary circumstance” surrounding the death of his alleged victim, 26-year-old Filipino transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in Olongapo City.
“I think, kung hindi ako nagkakamali, iyong VFA Commission at Department of Foreign Affairs, tina-trabaho na rin nila (ang custody issue) by talking to the US Embassy and counterparts,” said De Lima in an interview.
On Monday, the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office filed a murder case against the US Marine before the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74. An arrest warrant was issued the following day.
In their resolution, the prosecutors said the crime was qualified as murder because there was treachery, abuse of superior strength, and cruelty.
Pemberton was earlier transferred from the US Navy ship USS Peleliu docked in Subic to a detention facility at the Philippine military headquarters.
The US Embassy in Manila maintained Pemberton is still under US custody despite being detained in a Philippine facility.
Laude, 26, was found dead inside a lodge in Olongapo City in October this year. Laude was last seen with Pemberton whom she reportedly met at a bar.
US Ambassador Philip Goldberg was earlier quoted as saying Pemberton’s promotion from Private First Class to Lance Corporal had nothing to do with Laude’s killing, adding that his promotion was underway long before the Olongapo City incident. (MNS)