De Lima: US Marine should appear at hearing

NO TO SPECIAL TREATMENT. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima challenges the US Marine accused of killing Jennifer Laude to appear before the Olongapo City prosecutor. File photo by Jose Del/Rappler

NO TO SPECIAL TREATMENT. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima challenges the US Marine accused of killing Jennifer Laude to appear before the Olongapo City prosecutor.

File photo by Jose Del/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines - Government prosecutors will insist on the appearance of US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton at a preliminary hearing in Olongapo City on Tuesday, October 21, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said.

"The city prosecutor will insist [on Pemberton's appearance]," De Lima told reporters on Monday, October 20. "Para 'di masabi na nagkakaroon ng special treatment…para di masabi na soft ang stance ng gobyerno lalo ang DOJ." (So that it cannot be said that he is being given special treatment or that the government is being soft on him.)

De Lima explained that under normal circumstances, an accused has to execute his affidavit before a prosecutor. She said she sees "no reason" why Pemberton should be an exception.

The US Embassy on Sunday, October 19, stressed that while it is committed to make Pemberton available to Philippine authorities it's up to his Filipino lawyers to decide on whether or not he should appear at the Tuesday hearing.

"Whether the suspect will appear on Tuesday [October 21] is a decision that he will make in consultation with his Philippine legal counsel, in accordance with Philippine law," the US embassy statement said.

Pemberton stands accused of murdering transgender Filipino woman Jennifer Laude on October 11 after spending the night with her. Laude was found dead in the bathroom of Celzone Lodge in Olongapo City last week.

The city prosecutor has issued him a subpoena to appear at Tuesday's hearing.

Laude's friend who accompanied her and Pemberton to the lodge is being eyed as a principal witness who will likely be covered by the government's Witness Protection Program.

The Laude murder reminds Filipinos of a previous case involving an American soldier, who was charged in a Philippine court for allegedly raping a Filipina. In 2006, US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was sentenced to 40 years in jail for raping "Nicole," but she eventually recanted her statements and he was set free. - Rappler.com