De Lima: DOJ to speed review of Pemberton plea
MANILA, Philippines–Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Sunday said her office would resolve within the month the petition filed by US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton for a review of his indictment in the murder of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude.
De Lima said the Department of Justice (DOJ) would expedite the resolution of Pemberton’s petition to meet the requirement under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that all judicial proceedings covering US military personnel accused of crimes in the Philippines should be completed in one year.
“Certainly, we are fast-tracking the resolution of that petition for review. We are aware of the need for speedy resolution considering the prescribed period under the VFA,” De Lima said in a text message to reporters.
Under Article V of the VFA, if the judicial proceedings against a charged US serviceman are not completed within a year, the US government will no longer be obliged to make the accused available to Philippine courts.
The Olongapo City court hearing Pemberton’s case suspended the proceedings after the US Marine appealed his indictment.
Under the rules of court, the arraignment of an accused in a criminal case may be suspended up to 60 days if he files a petition for review by the DOJ.
De Lima said the review would not take 60 days. “We will issue the resolution this month,” she said.
The DOJ received the 33-page petition for review filed by Pemberton through his lawyer Rowena Garcia on Dec. 22.
Depending on her assessment of the petition, De Lima may affirm or reverse the finding of probable cause against Pemberton by the Olongapo prosecutors who conducted the preliminary investigation.
In his petition, Pemberton said the murder charge against him should be dismissed for being “based on nothing but conjectures and speculations.”
Pemberton had just participated in joint exercises between US and Filipino troops when he picked Laude up mat a bar in Olongapo City on the night of Oct. 11.
They checked into a motel, where Laude was later found dead in a bathroom. She had been beaten and drowned in the toilet bowl, according to the police forensic report.
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