MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Prosecutors on Friday, October 17, issued a subpoena against the 19-year-old US Marine tagged as the principal suspect in the October 11 killing of 26-year-old Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude.
The Olongapo City Prosecutor's Office ordered US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton to appear before it in a preliminary hearing on October 21 at 2 pm and answer the murder complaint filed against him by the family of Laude earlier this week.
Pemberton was also required to submit his counter-affidavit on the complaint.
The subpoena was delivered to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) by City Prosecutor Emily Fe delos Santos, who was also head of the government prosecution team in the 2005 rape case of Suzette Nicolas ("Nicole") against US Marines Daniel Smith, Chad Carpentier, Dominic Duplantis and Keith Silkwood.
The DFA is tasked under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippine and US governments to present the subpoena to American servicemen accused of crimes in the Philippines.
Pemberton is being held at the USS Peleliu, one of two US ships that docked at Subic Bay recently and which have been ordered to stay put. Olongapo police, citing witnesses, said Laude was last seen with Pemberton hours before Laude was found dead on October 11 in a room at the Celzone Lodge in the city.
There's doubt that the US will turn over Pemberton to authorities, however.
Article V, Paragraph 6 of the VFA between the Philippines and the US states: “The custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with the United States military authorities, if they so request.”
In 2006, a Philippine court sentenced US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith to 40 years in jail for raping a Filipina a year earlier. (READ: EDCA, Olongapo murder, and the old case of Daniel Smith)
Smith was turned over to the US Embassy while his case was pending before a Makati City court, and stayed in US custody even after his conviction.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier said that although “in the normal course of events, the US would have custody” of the suspect, they also need to produce him for court hearings.
In the case of heinous crimes, “we could ask them to waive custody, so I suppose it will go in that direction,” said del Rosario.
Lawyer Harry Roque, counsel of the victim who met with De Lima on Friday expressed his doubt whether the DOJ will be successful in summoning Pemberton to attend the preliminary investigation hearings.
While Pemberton is aboard USS Peleliu, Roque said that no process server from the DOJ could board the vessel since it is an American warship.
“We filed the criminal compliant that would trigger the process of preliminary investigation to begin. We had doubts about whether the proceedings could move forward given that the Respondent, PFC Joseph Scott Pemberton, is still in the custody of his American superiors,” Roque said in a statement. - Rappler.com