Custody battle for Pemberton looms

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015. Filed under: Philippine News
US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was sentenced to 6-12 years imprisonment and ordered to pay the Laude family at least P4.5 million for various damages. The court also ordered his “temporary” detention at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City.

US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was sentenced to 6-12 years imprisonment and ordered to pay the Laude family at least P4.5 million for various damages. The court also ordered his “temporary” detention at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City.

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Justice may have already been served in the Jennifer Laude slay case but the custody battle for US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton is still far from over.

The Laude family is considering its legal options following the homicide conviction of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton.

Harry Roque, legal counsel for the family, said they will question Pemberton’s detention at Camp Aguinaldo. Roque said there were clear orders from the court that until a clarification is made as to where exactly Pemberton will be detained, he will be temporarily held at the New Bilibid Prison.

This changed after the judge allowed the filing of a motion for clarification by the Visiting Forces Agreement Commission.

“The clarification came from the VFA Commission who argued and this was General [Eduardo] Oban, who said that according to an agreement signed by the US and Philippine government that people like Pemberton convicted under the VFA should be detained at a mutually agreed place of detention and this mutually agreed place of detention was Camp Aguinaldo. But the court was very clear in her order – how can thisbe a specific place of detention because the agreement says Camp Aguinaldo or any similar facilities,” he said.

He pointed out that right after the guilty verdict against Pemberton was read, the American side reacted visibly and did not want to turn over custody of the US Marine to Philippine authorities.

“The judge gave in but I cannot blame her. There could have been a shooting incident…The Americans had their way,” he added.

Roque said they may also file contempt charges against some Philippine officials including VFA Commission head Gen. Eduardo Oban.

“Number one, I think there’s very clearly an instance here of contempt committed by Philippine personnel. Imagine General Oban trying, you know, to impose his will and his interpretation of the agreement to a court of law. The court is the interpreter of the agreement and the court interpreted the agreement already,” he said.

A Philippine court on Tuesday ordered the temporary detention of Pemberton to an American-held facility inside the Philippine military’s national headquarters, following a guilty verdict for killing a transgender woman.

The Olongapo City regional trial court found Pemberton guilty of homicide, jailing him for six to 12 years in a case that has reignited debate over the American military presence in the country.

Pemberton was escorted by Philippine Bureau of Corrections personnel back to the US-run detention facility of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group where he was incarcerated during the trial.

Pemberton had been charged with murder for killing Jennifer Laude last year in a hotel outside the former U.S. Navy base northwest in Manila, but was convicted of the lesser offence of homicide, which does not require malicious intent.

He can appeal against the verdict and sentence.

Pemberton had earlier admitted in court to choking, but not killing, Laude. He said he had acted in self-defense after he discovered that a man was giving him oral sex, not a woman.

Meanwhile, the Bayan Muna party-list reiterated its call for the abolition of the VFA amid the custody issue surrounding Pemberton.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the party is opposing the VFA, particularly the provision where the Philippines has to consult with the US the place of detention of a convicted US personnel.

“That’s really an insult to our sovereignty here. You are giving special treatment to a foreigner, a convicted felon. An ordinary Filipino for example convicted of the same crime will be brought immediately to a penal colony,” he said.

“Here we are still discussing what to do with him. These things will continue to happen if we do not attack the root cause of this, which is the VFA.”

Zarate also said the VFA has not been beneficial to the country, saying the agreement is a tool “where our country is being used as a pawn of the US in its expansion especially here in Asia.”

“From the point of view of the Americans we are useful to them but to us parang naiipit tayo especially now in this pull and push of China and the US. I think it is very important for us to assert an independent foreign policy rather than be an appendage to the US…” (MNS)

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