Killing of Jennifer Laude a 'hate crime' – police report

MANILA, Philippines – The killing of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude was a "crime of hatred," according to the investigation report of Olongapo police.

The report dated Tuesday, October 14, sought to determine the cause of death of the 26-year-old Laude. The principal suspect behind the death is a US Marine, identified by witnesses as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton.

According to the report prepared by investigator-on-case SPO3 Tyrone DP Tecson, the suspect engaged Laude for "sex service."

His discovery that Laude was "gay," the report said, "prompted him to kill the victim."

On Saturday, October 11, Laude was found dead at Celzone Lodge in Olongapo City. An earlier police report said her head "was leaning" against the toilet bowl while her "lower body was partially covered with a color cream blanket."

Police said they saw injuries on Laude's neck. An autopsy report later said Laude died due to "asphyxia by drowning."

Witness Mark Clarence Gelviro told police that Laude met a "white male foreigner" at Ambyanz disco bar located along Magsaysay Drive East Tapinac.

After accompanying Laude and the suspect to check in at the Celzone Lodge, Gelviro said he was asked by Laude to leave "before the suspect [could] discover that they are gays."

The crime was reported to the police by the lodge's cashier, 24-year-old Elias Galamos, who said that he found a dead body in Room No. 1 of the lodge.

The investigation report said the suspect "passionately check in (sic) transgender Jeffrey Laude y Serdoncillo at Celzone Lodge for sex service."

"[Later the] suspect discovered that his sex partner was...gay that prompted him to kill the victim," it added.

The report also recommended "that a murder case be filed against PFC Joseph Scott Pemberton."

The 19-year-old Pemberton is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marinesonboard US warship West Pacific Express. He is currently under US custody, following a provision in the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) signed between the Philippines and the United States.

Under the VFA, the Philippines can seek custody of a US soldier accused of committing a crime in its territory under "extraordinary circumstances."

The Philippines has already said that it wants to get the American soldier under custody, a request that the US can opt to deny.

On Wednesday, October 15, Laude's family filed a murder complaint against Pemberton before the prosecutor's office in Olongapo City.

The city prosecutor will determine if there's enough prima facie evidence to file murder charges against Pemberton in court.

The family's lawyer, Harry Roque, said in a press conference that the family decided to file the complaint to show the government that it had to act now.

The Laude family is also demanding that the Philippines take custody of Pemberton immediately.

In a news conference, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said the Philippine government will seek custody of Pemberton after the court issues a warrant for his arrest. – with reports from Randy Datu/Rappler.com