‘Pemberton cell agreed on months ago’
A FORMER justice undersecretary on Monday said the family of slain transgender Jennifer Laude no longer had the legal personality to question the detention of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was convicted of homicide by an Olongapo City court last week.
Lawyer Jose Justiniano said the issue of Pemberton’s place of detention following his conviction was governed by what the United States and Philippine governments may decide, in accordance with the terms of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
“Insofar as detention of the accused is concerned, the Laude family has no personality to question it. When you file the complaint, your interest is civil in nature since [the] criminal case is the interest of the state. This is why the private prosecutor is always under the jurisdiction of the public prosecutor,” Justiniano said in a television interview.
“If ever the matter is brought to the Supreme Court, it should be the Department of Justice (DOJ), through the Office of the Solicitor General, and not the private lawyer [who should pursue it],” Justiniano added.
The US and Philippine governments recently agreed to have Pemberton detained in a special facility to be constructed inside Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. The facility will be under the Bureau of Corrections, an attached agency of the DOJ.
Justiniano served as the legal counsel of US Marine Daniel Smith, who was convicted in 2005 of raping a Filipino woman in Subic, Zambales, but was acquitted four years later after the complainant recanted.
Justiniano said that when he was with the DOJ as the undersecretary in charge of the Laude case, an agreement was reached sometime in August between the Department of Foreign Affairs, the US Embassy and the VFA Commission that Pemberton would be detained at Camp Aguinaldo if he were convicted.
“There was an agreement but I did not see if it was a signed agreement,” he said, adding that the DOJ was not a primary party to the agreement.
The lawyer said the agreement was not made known to the judge for reasons of “prematurity.” He said this was why the Olongapo judge ordered that Pemberton be detained at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City until Philippine and US authorities produced an agreement on where Pemberton was to be detained.
“[The judge] was not aware and the reason is, it was premature for the judge to know since there was still no judgment when the agreement on [Pemberton’s] detention was agreed upon,” he explained.
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