Miriam: US Marine given special treatment
MANILA, Philippines – Arriving by helicopter and shielded from public view?
To Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the US Marine accused of killing a Filipino transgender woman got special treatment when he was transferred early Wednesday, October 22, from the US ship where he was held to Camp Aguinaldo.
Speaking to reporters after a Senate hearing on the murder case of Jennifer Laude, Santiago said Pemberton was accorded "extraordinary" treatment for one whom she described as having allegedly committed a "crime of extreme cruelty."
The 19-year-old Pemberton is the primary suspect in the death of Laude last October 11.
Police found Laude with her head slumped against the toilet in the bathroom of Celzone Lodge in Olongapo City. Police later said she died by drowning.
Pemberton, who had been held on board the USS Peleliu, arrived via a chopper at the Joint US Military Assistance Group (Jusmag) compound inside Camp Aguinaldo early Wednesday.
The 20-footer van where he is detained is a facility of the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board. He will be sleeping in a military type cotbed.
During the Senate hearing on Wednesday, Santiago decried the "unfair provisions" outlined in the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) signed between the Philippines and the United States in 1998.
Critics of the VFA say the agreement is lopsided in favor of the US because of the custody issue when it comes to American servicemen charged with crimes. (READ: Why PH must assert sole custody of US Marine)
While the Philippines has jurisidiction over erring US servicemen, the agreement states that "the custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings."
But Santiago pointed out that custody is a component of jurisdiction. If the Philippines has primary jurisdiction, then it follows that the Philippines should also have custody, the senator said.
"But this logic is spurned by the VFA. When the US requests custody, the Philippines is required to comply immediately. But when the Philippines considers it to be an extraordinary case and requests custody, the US is merely required to give full account."
"This gross inequity is the elephant in the room," Santiago added.
The custody issue over Pemberton has been raging for several days.
While the Philippines has expressed its intent to get the American soldier under its custody, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said it would do so once formal charges have been filed against Pemberton.
The Olongapo City Prosecutor's Office is currently conducting preliminary investigations to determine if there is enough evidence to charge him in court.
But Santiago said the Philippines should get custody over Pemberton immediately.
She also pointed to what she considers special treatment given to Pemberton as proof of the "discrimination bias" of the VFA.
"He arrives by helicopter, he is shielded from public view...That is special treatment, extraordinary compared to being held in an ordinary jail," she said.
"This is our own country, not America. This shows the preparations of the United States, that it will do all it can to give Pemberton special treatment," Santiago added.
Earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that they are not seeking special treatment for Pemberton. – Rappler.com