US Marine to appear before Olongapo court
MANILA, Philippines – The country will finally see what United States Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton looks like.
Pemberton, who is accused of murdering a Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude, is set to appear before the Olongapo regional trial court in Zambales at 9 am on Friday, December 19, at least 4 sources confirmed to Rappler Thursday evening.
He will undergo the routine arrest booking procedure and arraignment.
Pemberton will travel by land from his detention facility inside the military headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. "Maagang maaga [siya aalis] (He will leave very early)," said one of the sources.
After the court takes his fingerprints and mugshots, the court will read to Pemberton the criminal charges. He is expected to enter his plea.
The development comes after the Olongapo court issued an arrest warrant for Pemberton.
Pemberton did not appear at the preliminary hearing of his case. His lawyer Rowena Flores represented him. The booking procedure requires his presence before the court, however.
There have been sketchy reports coming from local media on the court order to make Pemberton appear, but court officials were reportedly mum about it. Later in the day, US officials were reported to be inspecting the court.
The US State Department also issued a statement Thursday afternoon that it would "cooperate" with the government but provided no details.
"The Philippine press has reported that a US service member charged with the murder of a Philippine national in the city of Olongapo is to make a court appearance in the Philippines later this week. We will continue to cooperate with the Government of the Philippines to ensure that justice is served," said Jen Psaki, US State Department spokesperson.
The US reiterated that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) applies to the case of Pemberton, so it insists on keeping custody of the US Marine "until completion of all judicial proceedings."
The Philippines formally requested for the custody of Pemberton following the issuance of the arrest warrant. The US rejected it, but vowed to make Pemberton available to the court whenever necessary. – Rappler.com