Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, the US Marine charged with murder for the killing of Filipino transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, could leave the Philippines in a year’s time unless the government takes custody of him.
In a statement Thursday, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares urged the Philippine government to override the US’ refusal to turn over Pemberton since it violates the country’s criminal laws and disregards the jurisdiction of the Philippine courts and law enforcement over crimes committed in the Philippines and against Filipinos.
“It is unthinkable that the government should allow this brazen affront to the Filipino nation and downright revolting that the government failed to arrest and take custody of the suspected assailant Pemberton and the US authority and custody prevailed over the American suspect of killing a Filipino on Philippine soil,” he said.
Colmenares did not elaborate on how the Philippines can compel the US to turn Pemberton, who is being held in Camp Aguinaldo under guard by US military personnel, over.
The US Embassy has said the US “will continue to work closely with the Philippine government to help ensure justice is served and the rights of all persons are protected.”
Should the Philippines fail to get custody of Pemberton, Colmenares, a lawyer, warned that the US’ obligation to present him in court will end within a year under Article 5 Paragraph 6 of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
“This means the US can spirit him out of the country after one year. We should insist for the custody of Pemberton because he would be able to go scot-free after a year if the trial is still not over,” he said.
Article V Section 6 of the VFA states: “The custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with US military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”
The provision also provides that the US will be relieved of any obligations regarding custody if Philippine judicial proceedings are not completed within one year.