US Marine's arraignment for Laude murder set

OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines – The arraignment of the United States Marine accused of killing a Filipino transgender woman has been set for February 23, at 9 am.

The court also set a preliminary conference to mark evidence and a pre-trial for stipulation of facts on the same date.

At the resumption of the high profile murder trial on Monday, February 2, Judge Roline Ginez Jabalde of the Olongapo Regional Trial Court Branch 74 also denied the motion to inhibit that the prosecution filed against her. 

Jabalde said she was not being influenced by anyone, including the counsel for the accused, US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton.

Pemberton's lawyer, Rowena Garcia Flores, was Judge Jabalde's classmate at the San Beda College of Law.

The motion to allow media coverage and the custody of the accused is still pending.

Pemberton's lawyer told the media this motion will likely be resolved also on February 23 too.

Jabalde on December 23 ordered the suspension of the trial for 60 days after Pemberton filed a petition for review of the case with the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The DOJ last week denied the appeal.

In the resolution denying Pemberton’s appeal and affirming the findings of the city prosecutor, DOJ stated that the accused was "probably guilty for the murder of Jeffrey 'Jennifer' Laude on October 11, 2014."

The prosecution filed the appeal, saying the court should resolve with dispatch the motion to inhibit, saying the case is a special one and should be heard, tried and decided within a period of one year counted from December 15, 2014 in consonance with the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

The continuation of the trial was being closely monitored by the business community here who wanted the port calls of US Navy ships continued.

“Many businesses here suffered huge revenue losses when US ships canceled their port calls last year after a US marine was linked to the murder of the transgender,” said a businessman here who requested anonymity.

Reports say some 3,500 US servicemen were barred from leaving their ships while an investigation into the murder was ongoing.

In late January, however, 3 US military ships already made their port calls in Subic.

The USNS Pecos and the USNS John Ericsson docked at the Alava Pier before the cargo ship USNS Carl Brashear made its own port call last January 28. – Rappler.com