4 US witnesses in Olongapo slay left Philippines – DFA

MANILA, Philippines – Citing information from the US Embassy, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported Monday, October 20, that the 4 American witnesses in a transgender Filipino's murder have left the Philippines.

DFA spokesman Charles Jose, however, said the foreign affairs department “was not informed by the US side that 4 witnesses were leaving the country.” He added: “They are not required to do so."

Jose noted that according to the prosecutor, the 4 witnesses “have already satisfied the legal requirements.”

“Moreover, the US has given assurances that they will make available the witnesses at the trial,” he said in a text message to reporters.

In a media briefing Monday, Jose also said the witnesses “are free” because they “are not the accused.”

This is not the case with Private First Class Joseph Pemberton, the 19-year-old US Marine who allegedly murdered Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old transgender woman, in Olongapo City. 

Jose said the prosecutor “will expect” Pemberton to appear at the hearing in compliance with the VFA.

Sworn statements submitted

Earlier, the US Embassy pointed out the 4 witnesses have submitted their sworn statements.

“Last week, city prosecutors met with 4 witnesses and swore them to their statements in accordance with Philippine law, satisfying the requirements of the city prosecutor and the 'make available' language of the US-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” the US Embassy said in a statement Sunday, October 19.

While the witnesses will not appear on Tuesday, the US said they will be made available for the trial "in accordance with the Visiting Forces Agreement.”

The Office of the Olongapo City Prosecutor earlier required 4 US Marines to testify on the murder of Laude, who was allegedly killed by their colleague, Pemberton. 

Jose said the prosecutor “has already obtained the sworn affidavits of the 4 witnesses, and based on review and evaluation, the prosecutor has decided that it was not necessary for them to appear” at the preliminary investigation Tuesday. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.