MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is not worried by a court ruling suspending the murder trial of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton for 2 months in spite of a one-year deadline to complete the court proceedings
There is enough time, said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma.
"The goal of the government here is to find justice and there is a timeframe provided by the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which says the trial must finish in a year. The timeframe just started. There is sufficient time for the legal proceeding," Coloma said on Wednesday, December 24, a day after the Olongapo court released its ruling.
The Visiting Forces Agreement between the US and Philippines applies to the case of Pemberton. The US keeps custody of the US Marine but the Olongapo court has jurisdiction over the case. The US also has the responsibility to make the US soldier available to the court provided that the trial is completed within a year.
Coloma said Pemberton's motions are part of the judicial process. They are options for anyone facing criminal charges.
“We need to follow it because we’re talking about the judicial process and this process is part of the rights of the accused,” Coloma said.
The Olongapo prosecutors office filed on December 15 a murder case against Pemberton over the killing of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude in October. (READ: Remebering 'Ganda': The tragedy of Jennifer Laude)
In response, Pemberton filed a motion before the Olongapo court seeking to suspend the trial and another one before the Depatment of Justice seeking to review the case filed by the local prosecutors.
Pemberton surrendered to the court last week, December 19, for the routine booking procedure although his arraingment was deferred due to his motion to suspend the trial.
Lawyer Harry Roque, the counsel for the Laude family, said he will ask the court to reconsider its ruling granting the 60-day suspension.
Roque said he will also ask the court to reconsider its ruling junking the Laude family's motions to move Pemberton to a jail in Olongapo and to allow the media to cover the court proceedings. – Rappler.com