Olongapo judge sets Pemberton arraignment on Feb. 23
OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines–The judge hearing the murder case against US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton has scheduled the American soldier’s arraignment for Feb. 23.
Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde of the Regional Trial Court Branch 74 on Monday also junked the motion for inhibition filed against her by the prosecution team and the lawyers of the family of slain transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude.
Assistant City Prosecutor Ria Nina Sususco said Jabalde set Pemberton’s arraignment, along with the preliminary conference and preliminary trial, at 9 a.m. on Feb. 23.
Speaking with reporters after the hearing, lawyer Rowena Garcia-Flores, Pemberton’s lead counsel, said her client would appear in court as ordered by the court.
Pemberton was charged with murder on Dec. 15 last year for the killing of Laude, whose body was found in a motel bathroom here on the night of Oct. 11.
In her order, Jabalde said she dismissed the motion for inhibition against her because the fact that she and Flores, who represents Pemberton, were classmates in law school “has nothing to do with [the conduct of court proceedings].”
The prosecution panel, headed by Chief City Prosecutor Emilie Fe de los Santos, filed the motion against Jabalde on Jan. 5, citing her association with the US serviceman’s lawyer.
“In a string of cases, the Supreme Court has said that bias and prejudice, to be considered valid reasons for the voluntary inhibition of judges, must be proved with clear and convincing evidence,” Jabalde said.
She said she was “never influenced” by anybody, including Pemberton’s lawyer, when she did not arraign the American soldier when he appeared in court on Dec. 19.
Citing Section 9, Paragraph 2 of Department Circular No. 70 of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Jabalde said she did not arraign Pemberton “pending the filing for petition with the DOJ, which is sanctioned by the rules of DOJ where the prosecutors belong.”
Despite the dismissal of the inhibition motion, lawyer Virgie Suarez, one of the lawyers of the Laude family, said they were happy with Jabalde’s order to arraign Pemberton and start the trial.
“At the end of the day, what’s important is that Pemberton will be arraigned and the Laude family has long been waiting for it,” Suarez told reporters here.
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