By Oliver Teves
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A U.S. Marine charged with killing a transgender Filipino woman he picked up in a bar was brought back Friday to the city where the attack occurred two months ago, and lawyers of the victim say they will seek his detention in a local jail during his murder trial.
Relatives of Jennifer Laude saw the suspect, Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, for the first time since the killing as he was being photographed and fingerprinted by officers of the Regional Trial Court in Olongapo City, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Manila.
The U.S. Embassy has already rejected a request by the Philippine government to take custody of Pemberton, citing a provision in the Visiting Forces Agreement between the countries that gives Americans custodial rights over a U.S. service member facing charges while judicial proceedings are ongoing.
American Ambassador Philip Goldberg said the U.S. government was “sensitive” to Filipino sentiments on the killing and agreed to have Pemberton detained inside a Philippine military camp in Manila, but under U.S. guard.
Pemberton was brought from the camp to Olongapo early Friday under heavy guard, including U.S. armed service personnel as signed to secure him.
He was whisked through a backdoor into the courtroom, evading dozens of journalists and cameramen waiting for him. After the booking procedures, he was driven back to Manila.
Laude family lawyer Virgie Suarez said she expects the judge to soon rule on where he should be detained. “He (Pemberton) was not on official duty and he committed the crime in Olongapo, so he should be detained here in Olongapo,” she told reporters.
Laude’s sister, Marilou, said she had “mixed emotions — scared … and trembling with anger” when she first saw Pemberton during the booking proceedings. She said Pemberton was smiling before he saw her. “He quickly looked away from me and never smiled again,” she said.
“I wanted to come close to him to ask him why he killed my sibling, to smash his head on the wall, but there were too many [guards] around him,” she said.
Philippine government prosecutors on Monday charged Pemberton with murder, saying he killed Laude, who was formerly known as Jeffrey, after he found out she was a transgender woman. Laude had apparently been strangled and drowned in a toilet bowl in a motel where the pair had checked in after meeting in a disco bar on Oct. 11, according to prosecutors.
Olongapo City Prosecutor Emilie Fe de los Santos said Pemberton’s lawyers filed a motion to suspend the judicial proceedings while awaiting a Department of Justice ruling on their petition to review the murder charge.
Pemberton’s lawyers could not be reached for comment. Pemberton was in the Philippines to take part in combat exercises involving thousands of American and Filipino troops. ■