OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines—The city’s prosecutors on Monday asked the judge hearing the murder case against US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton to inhibit herself because of her association with the serviceman’s lawyer.
Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde of Regional Trial Court Branch 74 here was a classmate of Pemberton’s lawyer, Rowena Garcia-Flores, at the San Beda College of Law, said lawyer Virgie Suarez, one of the counsels of the family of slain transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude.
The prosecutors’ manifestation would be filed on Jan. 5 but Suarez disclosed it at a news conference after Jabalde addressed a petition filed by Pemberton’s lawyers to set aside and dismiss the murder charge.
Lawyer Gerry Gruspe, RTC Branch 74 clerk of court, said Jabalde may resolve Pemberton’s petition to review the case on Tuesday.
Laude’s lawyers said that asking Jabalde’s inhibition from the case would be another matter for the court to address as the government starts the countdown to the year to resolve the case as required by the Visiting Forces Agreement.
Suarez said the one-year prescription started on Dec. 15, the day Olongapo City Prosecutor Emilie Fe de los Santos formally charged Pemberton with Laude’s murder.
“It is the judge ultimately who will decide whether or not she will inhibit [herself from the case],” said lawyer Harry Roque, the Laude family’s chief counsel.
Both Roque and Suarez said they had no preference as to the judge who would handle the case since, they noted, the state had overwhelming evidence that Pemberton had murdered Laude.
“It doesn’t matter which judge, or what bias he or she carries. We believe the judge will heed the overwhelming evidence against Pemberton,” Roque said.
Flores has been made aware of the government’s petition to seek Jabalde’s inhibition, Roque said, adding that Flores is arguing that it has been “cancelled out” by the fact that Jabalde’s husband was also a classmate of De los Santos.
Jabalde convened the court because of Pemberton lawyers’ request to suspend the proceedings and review the charge. The defense lawyers said they believed the evidence was not strong enough to prosecute Pemberton for murder.
The motion had been submitted for resolution and no arguments were heard by the court.
De los Santos told reporters here that she had authorized Roque to rebut Pemberton’s lawyers in a motion, stressing that the soldier’s legal strategy would delay the trial.
Based on Pemberton’s petition, she said, the defense lawyers were pushing for the dismissal of the murder charge.
Roque and Suarez also filed two petitions for resolution on Monday. The first resolution sought Pemberton’s detention in an ordinary jail and the second sought permission for the media to cover the trial.
Unlike the motion for inhibition which the public and private prosecutors would file next year, the two petitions were not supported by government lawyers, Roque said.
“We believe, much as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had already stated, that the VFA grants the Philippines custody of an American soldier who is being litigated in the country,” he said.
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