Laude family to seek SC help in custody battle over Pemberton
OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines —- The lawyers of the family of slain transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude said they would ask the Supreme Court to rule on the issue of custody over the American soldier suspected of killing her in a motel here on Oct. 11.
“We are thinking of immediately turning to the Supreme Court because the consequence of not having the custody of [US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott] Pemberton is clear,” lawyer Harry Roque, the family’s lead counsel, told reporters here during Laude’s burial on Friday.
He said they would ask the high court why the government has been allowing the US to take the custody of Pemberton even if the crime was committed in the Philippines.
Pemberton, who is detained in a facility jointly managed by the American and Philippine governments inside the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, is the main suspect in Laude’s murder. Witnesses identified Pemberton as Laude’s companion when they checked into a motel here on the night she was killed.
Roque said that since the Philippine government has not taken custody of Pemberton, investigators could not get some basic evidence, such as Pemberton’s fingerprints and DNA samples.
“Until now, the police don’t have fingerprints and DNA samples of Pemberton because they can’t talk to him or even see him. We will not allow that (situation to go on),” he said.
Since Pemberton was never in Philippine custody, Roque said they never had the opportunity to conduct a physical examination “to see if there is any physical evidence that Jennifer attempted to defend herself when she was attacked.”
He said they could not ascertain whether Pemberton was really the person detained in Camp Aguinaldo. “We only have an image of a [man] who wears a helmet,” he said, referring to images shown on television newscasts and newspapers of Pemberton’s transfer from the US warship USS Peleliu to the AFP headquarters on Wednesday last week.
Pemberton did not show up at the preliminary investigation called by the prosecutor’s office here on Oct. 21 but was represented by his lawyers, Rowena Garcia Flores and Benjamin Tolosa Jr.
Flores, during the hearing, asked the city prosecutor that the defense be given up to Oct. 27 to study the complaint. She said she would inform the prosecutor’s office by Monday, Oct. 27, if Pemberton would file a counter-statement.
But Roque said that Pemberton would not show up for the second hearing for the murder complaint’s preliminary investigation on Monday (Oct. 27) at the city prosecutor’s office.
“I’m sure that he (Pemberton) again will not appear based on how the [US government is] acting recently. The [US government] will not leave Pemberton behind in a foreign territory,” Roque said.
He also appealed to the public to join Laude’s family in seeking justice.
“This is not just Laude family’s fight; this is every Filipino’s fight,” he said.
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