OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines – Police on Sunday started hunting down a foreigner suspected of killing a transgender in a hotel here on Saturday night.
A police report said Jeffrey Laude, 26, of Barangay (village) West Tapinac here, checked in with a “male, white foreigner” at the Celzone Lodge on Magsaysay Drive at 11:30 p.m. Saturday. The foreigner, however, left the hotel alone a few minutes after he and Laude entered their room.
Police said Elias Gallamos, one of the hotel’s room attendants, saw the suspect go out of the room, leaving the door ajar.
Gallamos later checked the room but saw a pair of slippers near the bathroom. He said he left the room, believing somebody was still there.
Police said Gallamos returned to the room at 11:45 p.m. and discovered Laude’s body, his head slumped in the toilet. Police said Laude could have been strangled and killed.
Another witness, Mark Clarence Gelviro, 22, the victim’s friend, said he and Laude met the suspect at the Ambyanz Disco Bar, also on Magsaysay Drive, at 10:55 p.m.
Gelviro told the police that Laude asked him to accompany them to the hotel.
He said Laude, when they reached the hotel, then asked him to leave before the foreigner could discover that they were transgenders.
Both Gallamos and Gelviro described the suspect as having “white complexion, with marine-style cut of hair,” standing between 5’8″ and 5’10” and between 25 and 30 years old.
The suspect, police said, was wearing a white and blue striped shirt with white sleeves, and black shorts when he and Laude checked in at the hotel.
Marilou Laude, a sister of the victim, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the suspect could be a US serviceman based on the descriptions given by the witnesses.
She asked the police to prevent US ships docked here from leaving Subic Bay pending the investigation.
“What we fear now is that those US ships will leave anytime soon and this will make it hard for us to seek justice,” Marilou Laude told the INQUIRER.
Chief Insp. Gil Arizo Domingo of the Olongapo City Police Station 3 appealed to Laude’s relatives not to jump to conclusions on the foreigner’s identity and background.
Still Domingo said that they have started coordinating with the Law Enforcement Department of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to allow them to board the American ships docked inside the Subic Bay Freeport to investigate the case.
Two US warships arrived here on Sept. 27 in time for war exercises between American and Filipino troops in the West Philippine Sea. Two days earlier, some 500 American sailors arrived here for a routine port call.
“There are [thousands of American] troops in those ships and it would be difficult for us to track the suspect, if ever he is a US serviceman,” Domingo said.
Domingo said the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) also limited the local police’s authority in immediately carrying out further investigation of US servicemen tagged in crimes.
The INQUIRER on Sunday afternoon tried but failed to reach Kurt Hoyer, press attaché at the US Embassy in Manila, for a statement on the suspicion of Laude’s family that the suspect could be a US soldier. In the five times that the INQUIRER called, Hoyer’s mobile phone was unattended.
A press statement from the US Embassy in Manila said at least 1,400 US troops participating in the annual Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise were on board the USS Peleliu (LHA 5) and the USS Germantown (LSD 42) when the two ships docked here last month.
The 500 American sailors aboard USS Frank Cable, according to a previous press release from the US Embassy, were “eager to enjoy Olongapo City and strengthen their understanding of a country with deep historical ties to the US and the US Navy.”
“This visit will allow the ship to replenish supplies and give the crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation,” it said.