Pemberton must show up Tuesday–De Lima
MANILA, Philippines–US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton has no reason not to appear in Tuesday’s preliminary investigation of the killing of transgender Filipino Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude at the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Monday.
“The city prosecutor will insist on his personal appearance so that no one will say that there is special treatment, so that it cannot be said that the stance of the government, especially the Department of Justice, is soft, considering that the case is now in our level,” De
Lima told reporters.
“If he does not appear and does not submit an affidavit, then his right to file one will be considered waived. The prosecutor will not readily accept a counteraffidavit that is not sworn to and subscribed before him,” she said.
The US Embassy said on Sunday it would produce Pemberton but his appearance in legal proceedings was for his lawyer to decide.
‘For his own sake’
Pemberton, who is being held aboard the USS Peleliu, which is docked at the Subic Bay Freeport, should appear at the preliminary investigation “for his own sake,” according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, spokesman for the DFA, said Pemberton would run the risk of being recommended for murder charges if he failed to show up in the preliminary investigation and submit a counteraffidavit.
“I think the Filipino [lawyer of Pemberton] should advise him to appear for his own sake,” Jose said.
Four other US Marines, called in as witnesses to the killing of Laude, gave statements to prosecutors last week and left the Philippines.
Jose said the DFA was not informed by the US side about the departure of the servicemen, as the United States was “not required to do so.”
‘They are free’
“[According to the] prosecutor, they have already satisfied the legal requirements,” Jose said. “Moreover, the US has given an assurance that they will make available the witnesses at the trial.”
Jose said the four other Marines were not respondents in the case so “they are free.”
US Embassy press attaché Kurt Hoyer said the four Marines were no longer in the Philippines but they would be brought back for the trial.
He said there was no need for the four to appear in the preliminary investigation Tuesday because they submitted statements and were sworn to their statements by prosecutors last week.
But Sen. Francis Escudero said the DFA and the DOJ should demand the presence of the four Marines in investigative and court proceedings.
Escudero said that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) calls not only for respect of law, but also demands obligation to make US personnel available for investigative or judicial proceedings.
Jose said the Olongapo city prosecutor expected Pemberton to appear for preliminary investigation Tuesday “in accordance with the VFA.”
Witnesses have identified Pemberton as the man who checked in with Laude at Celzone Lodge in Olongapo about half an hour before she was found dead in the bathroom of a room in the motel late on Oct. 11.
Police opened criminal proceedings against Pemberton after Laude’s family filed a complaint for murder against the US Marine on Oct. 15.
Ready to forgive
Julita Laude, the victim’s mother, said Monday that she was ready to forgive Pemberton, but the serviceman should admit killing her daughter.
“If he will admit what he did to my child, we are ready to forgive him. But it does not mean that we will not seek justice,” she said.
Laude and her daughter Marilou, the complainant in the case, called on the US government to bring Pemberton to the preliminary investigation.
“As we have been saying, we want to see him in person because that’s the only assurance we have that he is still in the country,” Marilou Laude said.
De Lima said that a respondent may choose not to appear in the preliminary investigation, but only if the prosecutor would allow it.
“There are respondents who choose not to appear citing whatever reason. They can submit an affidavit subscribed before a notary public. But what I know is that’s not easily allowed by the court unless there is a compelling reason why the respondent does not want to show up. In this case, I see no reason why [Pemberton cannot appear] before the city prosecutor,” she said.
To fight for custody
De Lima said she believed it was still “premature” to demand custody of Pemberton because the complaint against him was still in the preliminary investigation stage.
She added, however, that the DOJ was ready to fight for custody “in due time,” adding that the agency was already preparing a position paper on the matter.
De Lima said she had given instructions to expedite the proceedings and to ward off unnecessary delays.
“The commitment of the prosecutor’s office is they [will] expedite the preliminary investigation. The guidance I gave them was not to allow dilatory maneuvers, not to allow unreasonable [moves] for postponement,” she said.
De Lima confirmed that the witness in Laude’s killing, identified as “Barbie,” will appear in the Senate inquiry into the incident.
The inquiry by the Senate foreign relations committee headed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago begins on Wednesday.
Santiago wrote De Lima on Monday asking her to allow Barbie, whose real name is Mark Clarence Gelviro, and Elias A. Galamos of Celzone Lodge to testify in the Senate inquiry.
“Their testimonies will be absolutely essential for the Senate to carry out the mandate to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation,” Santiago told De Lima in her letter.
Santiago also invited Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Eduardo Oban of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement, and Philippine National Police Chief Director General Alan Purisima to the hearing.
Julita and Marilou Laude will also attend the Senate hearing.
De Lima said Barbie had been provisionally admitted into the government’s Witness Protection Program but she had not yet spoken with the witness.
She said three witnesses have applied for protection and that she was waiting for the recommendation of the program’s chief.–With reports from TJ Burgonio in Manila and Allan Macatuno, Inquirer Central Luzon
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