PHNO HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS PAST WEEK

PH DEMANDS CUSTODY OF PEMBERTON; ARREST ORDER OUT FOR U.S. SERVICEMEN 

Photo of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton PHOTO FROM PEMBERTON FACEBOOK ACCOUNT MANILA, DECEMBER 22, 2014 (INQUIRER) Allan Macatuno, Christine O. Avendaño | Inquirer Central Luzon - The Philippine government on Tuesday night demanded custody of Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton after serving an Olongapo City court warrant for the US Marine’s arrest on a murder charge in connection with the killing of Filipino transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude. READ FULL REPORT...

(ALSO) US envoy replies: We’ll retain custody of US Marine Pemberton

US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg. AFP FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, the US Marine charged with murder of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, should remain under US custody, Ambassador Philip Goldberg said on Wednesday. “The Philippine government has notified us that it will request custody as it can under the Visiting Forces Agreement but we, under the [VFA] can decide, as we will, to retain custody throughout the judicial process, READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Pemberton seeks downgrade of raps

PHOTO: ANGRY KIN --Marilou Laude, sister of slain transgender Jeffrey ‘Jennifer’ Laude, shows a picture she took of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton during his court appearance in Olongapo yesterday. EDD GUMBAN  OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines – More than two months after he was held for the death of a Filipino transgender, US Marine Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton appeared yesterday before an Olongapo City court where he met the family of his supposed victim for the first time.READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Marine remains with US; Malacañang expects ‘full cooperation’

PHOTO: US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said he had already notified the US Embassy in Manila of the US government’s intension to retain custody of the accused throughout the legal process. JOSEPH Scott Pemberton, the US Marine accused of murdering Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, will remain in US custody despite the arrest warrant issued against him by an Olongapo City court, an official said Wednesday.READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Pemberton dodges arraignment, seeks DoJ reversal 

PHOTO: Laude kin want media coverage, call on AFP to bring accused to jail Indicted American serviceman, Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, had the first of many days in court yesterday to face the murder charges filed against him in connection with the death of a 24-year-old transgender, Jeffrey Laude alias Jennifer, last October. Instead of pleading in an arraignment, Pemberton’s Filipino lawyers asked the court for a deferment of the trial until after their appeal before the Department of Justice (DoJ) of the local prosecutor’s recommendation to charge the 19-year-old Marine for the gory sex and murder crime. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Cloudy Christmas in the Visayas

PHOTO: CEBU BUILDINGS & SKYSCRAPERS TODAY --CEBU, Philippines - Visayas will have a cloudy Christmas but the public can expect rain in the days that will follow, said the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Administration. “December 24 and 25 maayo ang panahon though cloudy gamay but no rain. Inig 26 and 27 perte nasad nato anang uwana kay expected musulod ang Low Pressure Area nga muagi sa Eastern Visayas and Bicol,” said PAGASA Visayas Director Oscar Tabad. “Layo pa kaayo ni. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO NEWS COMMENTARY: PH allows U.S. to keep custody of Pemberton 

In the stare-down contest over custody after a murder case against U.S. Marine Lance Cpl Joseph Scott Pemberton was brought before the courts, it was the Philippines that blinked. The Philippines has bowed to U.S. insistence that local authorities cannot take custody of Pemberton, despite his being ordered arrested by an Olongapo City court for the death of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in October. From pfc, Pemberton was promoted to corporal even before the killing. The Department of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday it was no longer pushing for Philippine custody of Pemberton as the U.S. justification for refusing to turn him over to local authorities was “not inconsistent” with the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). This was a complete turnaround in a previous DFA stand. Malacañang earlier said the VFA should not bar the Philippines from seeking custody of Pemberton. READ FULL COMMENTARY...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

PH demands custody of Pemberton; Arrest order out for US serviceman


Photo of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton PHOTO FROM PEMBERTON FACEBOOK ACCOUNT

MANILA, DECEMBER 22, 2014 (INQUIRER) Allan Macatuno, Christine O. Avendaño | Inquirer Central Luzon - The Philippine government on Tuesday night demanded custody of Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton after serving an Olongapo City court warrant for the US Marine’s arrest on a murder charge in connection with the killing of Filipino transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude.

Assistant Secretary Charles Jose of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said two letters had been sent to US Embassy officials through the DFA’s American Affairs Office—one transmitting the arrest order against Pemberton and the other requesting his custody.

“We expect them to reply as soon as possible,” Jose told the Inquirer.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario confirmed that the letters had been sent to the embassy.

Olongapo Judge Roline Ginez Jabalde of the Regional Trial Court Branch 74 ordered the arrest of Pemberton on Tuesday afternoon, a day after the murder complaint was filed against him by a panel of prosecutors. Copies of the warrant were sent to the DFA, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines and National Bureau of Investigation.

But a court official declined to answer queries on where Pemberton would be detained, saying the judge would decide once the American serviceman is arrested.

Should the court order his detention in the Olongapo city jail, Pemberton will have to share a cell with about 50 inmates, according to the jail warden.

US Embassy won’t confirm

Reached by the Inquirer on Tuesday night, Kurt Hoyer, US Embassy spokesman, would not confirm if his office had received the arrest order and the DFA letter demanding custody of Pemberton.

A statement issued by the embassy earlier in the day reminded that under the US-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the United States “has a right to retain custody of a suspect from the commission of the alleged offense until the completion of all judicial proceedings.”

“The United States will continue to work closely with the Philippine government to help ensure justice is served and the rights of all persons are protected,” it said. It also reiterated its “deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased.”

Hoyer said the United States “intends to abide by the VFA, which stipulates that custody of a suspect remains with the US throughout the judicial process.”

“Justice is best served through the rule of law, which in cases involving US service members, includes the VFA,” he said in a statement.

Pemberton is currently being held inside a 20-foot container, under heavy guard by American and Filipino soldiers, inside AFP general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. US authorities transferred Pemberton from the USS Peleliu, which was docked at the Subic Freeport, to Camp Aguinaldo on Oct. 22 and are holding him in custody.

Still in US custody

The American technically remains in US territory while being held within Camp Aguinaldo, and Philippine authorities would have to go through diplomatic channels to effect his arrest, according to Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano.

“Of course, it’s Camp Aguinaldo, but the container is technically US territory,” Justiniano said.

The official spoke from his experience as one of the private counsels for US Marines tried in the Philippines for rape in 2006. The Marines were eventually cleared, including the primary suspect, Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, who was initially convicted but later acquitted on appeal.

“It’s just like how a Filipino police officer can’t just enter the US Embassy and serve a warrant. There has to be coordination with the DFA and, in turn, the DFA coordinates with the US Embassy,” Jose said when reached by phone to comment on Tuesday.

The PNP will wait for further instructions from higher-ups regarding the serving of the arrest warrant, according to its spokesman, Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor.

“This kind of situation calls for decisions from the higher-ups. There will be coordination between the Philippine and the US governments. We will wait for whatever procedure is agreed upon between the two governments,” Mayor said on Tuesday.

Likewise, the AFP is awaiting the go-signal from the Philippine and US governments to move out Pemberton from his detention, said Col. Restituto Padilla, the military spokesman.

“The accused cannot leave the premises unless the Philippine government and the US government say so,” Padilla said. “Whatever we are told to perform, we will readily comply, if he is asked to be placed in another facility and we are asked for our assistance, we will readily extend that.”

Congested jail

Olongapo’s jail warden, Chief Insp. Jerome Verbo, described the holding facility here as well-secured but congested with over 700 inmates, more than double its intended capacity.

“We are ready for Pemberton’s possible detention here if the court will issue an order but he will join other regular inmates in a very crowded cell,” Verbo told the Inquirer by telephone on Tuesday,

The jail is well-guarded with 42 security personnel taking turns manning the premises, he said.

“We are aware that Pemberton is a US Marine and if his concern is his safety here, we can assure him that the jail is tightly secured,” Verbo said.

Other foreigners, among them Australians and Koreans, are detained in regular cells and are not given special treatment, he added.

Witnesses’ accounts

Chief City Prosecutor Emilie Fe de los Santos on Monday said the prosecution had a “strong case” against Pemberton based on the testimonies of witnesses and evidence gathered from the crime scene.

Laude and a foreigner, whom witnesses later identified as Pemberton, had checked into Celzone Lodge on Magsaysay Drive on the night of Oct. 11. Laude was found dead by a motel employee after the foreigner left the room.

In the resolution released after a two-month preliminary investigation, the prosecutors said treachery was apparent because evidence showed Pemberton “choked Jennifer from behind.”

“Obviously, in that position, Jennifer was deprived of the opportunity to defend herself,” the resolution said.

“Although death has forever sealed Jennifer’s lips, the abrasions, bruises and contusions found on her body tell us how greatly she suffered in the hands of her attacker,” it said.

It said Pemberton “purposely used excessive force in killing Jennifer.”

“He (Pemberton) is a US Marines serviceman, who is far stronger than Jennifer, as evidenced by the fact that he single-handedly choked her with his arm …. Jennifer was beaten black and blue,” the resolution said.

Acts of cruelty

Cruelty was one of the qualifying circumstances in the murder charge, the resolution said, citing a detailed enumeration of Laude’s injuries in the forensic report.

“There were blood clots found on her scalp, her upper lip was cut and bruised, there were abrasions and contusions on her arms and legs,” it said.

Quoting prosecutors, lawyer Harry Roque, the lead counsel of the Laudes, on Monday said the element of treachery had been evident in Laude’s killing, describing it as mabangis (ferocious).

“Laude was drowned, her neck was broken, she was beaten up, and there were bite marks,” he said.

“Custody is the fruit of jurisdiction,” Roque said, arguing that getting the American government to release Pemberton to Philippine authority was what he had been fighting for.

“The big question is will Pemberton be detained? Will he be presented before our courts?” Roque said.

Malacañang on Tuesday said it did not want to preempt the judge handling the Laude case when it comes to the custody of Pemberton.

Smith case

“As a form of respect to the judicial processes, it is better not to preempt the court’s decision,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

He was asked if the Palace would ensure that the controversy over the custody of Smith, who was charged with raping a Filipino woman in 2005, would not happen again.

The US Embassy immediately took custody of Smith and his coaccused while they were being tried for the rape of the woman identified in media only as “Nicole.” The custody was a result of an agreement hammered between the embassy and the DFA.

SC avoided agreement

The Supreme Court eventually voided the agreement, signed by then Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo and then US Ambassador Kristie Kenney, saying it was not in accord with the VFA.

While Smith was convicted, his victim later recanted her allegations and the US Marine was released and whisked back to America.

On the filing of the murder complaint against the US Marine, Coloma said it showed that the “processes toward upholding justice” was moving.

“The government will continue to do everything it must to ensure that justice will prevail,” he added.

Once the trial starts, reporters will not be allowed inside Judge Jabalde’s sala, Clerk of Court Gerry Gruspe said, but he assured them that they would be briefed about the proceedings after each hearing.

“We’re trying to prevent chaos inside the court but there will be a systematic relay of necessary details of the hearing to members of the media,” he said.–With reports from Tarra Quismundo, Nikko Dizon, Cynthia D. Balana and Julie M. Aurelio in Manila


FROM THE INQUIRER

US envoy: We’ll retain custody of Pemberton Frances Mangosing @FMangosingINQ INQUIRER.net 2:12 PM | Wednesday, December 17th, 2014


US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg. AFP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, the US Marine charged with murder of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, should remain under US custody, Ambassador Philip Goldberg said on Wednesday.

“The Philippine government has notified us that it will request custody as it can under the Visiting Forces Agreement but we, under the [VFA] can decide, as we will, to retain custody throughout the judicial process,” Goldberg said in an interview with DZRH radio.

Pemberton is currently detained at Camp Aguinaldo but is guarded by US forces.

He said they “have gone beyond the VFA in the custody arrangement to try to be sensitive to the Philippines and Filipinos.”

A murder case was filed against Pemberton by the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office for Laude’s death.

An arrest warrant was issued against the US Marine on Tuesday. The warrant of arrest was later transmitted by the Department of Foreign Affairs to the US Embassy on Tuesday night.

“The VFA is what is the controlling, the governing document on this particular issue,” Goldberg said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, meanwhile, said their role remained custodial in nature.

“There is a governing agreement between the US and PH governments. So whatever is stated in the VFA pertaining to this case, that’s what we’ll follow,” AFP spokesperson Colonel Restituto Padilla told reporters.


FROM PHILSTAR

Pemberton seeks downgrade of raps By Bebot Sison Jr. and Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2014 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus0 0


Marilou Laude, sister of slain transgender Jeffrey ‘Jennifer’ Laude, shows a picture she took of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton during his court appearance in Olongapo yesterday. EDD GUMBAN

OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines – More than two months after he was held for the death of a Filipino transgender, US Marine Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton appeared yesterday before an Olongapo City court where he met the family of his supposed victim for the first time.

He underwent mandatory fingerprinting and had his mug shots taken, but was not arraigned for murder as scheduled.

His lawyers led by Rowena Garcia-Flores asked for suspension of proceedings while awaiting a Department of Justice (DOJ) ruling on their application to have the case reinvestigated and the charge downgraded to homicide.

Homicide is punishable with a maximum prison term of 20 years, compared to 40 years for murder.

The handcuffed Pemberton, in gray suit and under heavy guard by US and Filipino soldiers, was presented to Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde of Regional Trial Court Branch 74 for booking and arraignment for the killing of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in October. It was the first time that Pemberton appeared in public since Laude’s death.

“It is a legal remedy available to them, but it is essentially a dilatory tactic,” said Laude family lawyer Virginia Suarez.

The DOJ has not yet received the motion for a reinvestigation of the case.

The court suspended proceedings and set the next hearing on Monday for the decision on the defense’s motion.

The court also issued a commitment order for Pemberton to remain in detention at the Mutual Defense Board Security Engagement Facility at Camp Aguinaldo.

After the hearing at the Hall of Justice, Pemberton was immediately driven back in an SUV to his detention cell at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Laude kin angry

Laude’s sister Marilou said she had mixed feelings on meeting Pemberton for the first time. “I was angry but at the same time afraid. I wanted to ask him why he did it. I wanted to slam his head against a wall, but I couldn’t because he was guarded by NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service),” she told reporters after yesterday’s proceedings.

“We locked eyes briefly but he averted his gaze. I think he recognized that I’m the sister of Jennifer,” Marilou said.

She added Pemberton had an “innocent face,” and so “I wanted to ask him why he wanted my sister dead.”

She said they were able to take pictures of Pemberton inside the court, but authorities confiscated their cell phones.

Despite her anger, Marilou admitted it was also a relief to see Pemberton and be assured that the accused is still in the country.

A lawyer for the Laude family, Harry Roque Jr., said the appearance of Pemberton was an initial victory in their quest for justice.

“This is victory number two, but the bigger issue is his custody,” he stressed.

The lawyer argued the court and not the Department of Foreign Affairs should resolve the issue. He was reacting to the DFA’s giving up on pushing for Philippine custody for Pemberton.

“The DFA cannot dictate upon the court. It can only file manifestation but it is still the court that will decide, and our courts belong to an independent branch of our government,” he stressed.

Roque also said that they would file another motion with the RTC for the transfer of Pemberton to the city jail.

Suarez, the other lawyer for the Laude family, said they would also file a motion for the court hearing to be open to the public.

Security was tight in and around the Hall of Justice. Members of the media were not allowed to enter the courtroom, forcing them to wait for the proceedings to end at the lobby of the Hall of Justice.

A small group opposed to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) held a rally outside.

Also yesterday, two US Navy ships carrying an undetermined number of troops arrived in Olongapo for a port visit and to replenish supplies.

The USS Richard Byrd and USS Carl Brasher docked at the Alava Pier yesterday morning. The ships are expected to stay at the freeport for the next three days.

Mayor Rolen Paulino said this could indicate that US Navy ships may resume their port calls to Subic earlier than expected.

“It’s a positive development that these US Navy ships are starting to come back despite the ongoing case,” the mayor said.

He said US military servicemen are always welcome in the city, which hosted the biggest US overseas military facility for nearly a century.

The high-profile case has inflamed anti-US feelings in the Philippines and strained diplomatic relations between the long-time allies.

Shortly after being linked to Laude’s death, Pemberton was held on the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu. His superiors refused to hand him over to Philippine authorities, saying the VFA allows the US to keep custody of its personnel on trial for criminal offense in the Philippines. Ambassador Philip Goldberg reiterated the US position in a recent TV interview.

Laude was found dead shortly before midnight of Oct.11 inside a rented room he shared with Pemberton. Witnesses said the pair went to the hotel after having some drinks at a nearby bar. Pemberton was among the 3,500 US troops who took part in joint military exercise with Filipino soldiers in Subic.

Protests

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of the Philippines and some militant organizations have condemned the US for its refusal to turn over Pemberton to local authorities. The groups also demanded the repeal of the VFA.

In a statement, the CPP said it “joins the Filipino people in condemning the US government and military for rejecting the Philippine government’s request to have custody of US marine serviceman Joseph Scott Pemberton.” It also renewed its call for the abrogation of the VFA.

“That the VFA has again prevented the Philippine government from exercising full jurisdiction over a criminal case involving a US serviceman demonstrates once more that it is an overwhelmingly lopsided agreement favoring the US military and is violative of Philippine sovereignty,” it added.

The CPP also scored the Philippine government for what it described as “torpid” response to the US position and for its refusal to assert full jurisdiction over the murder case.

“Like dejected minions, Aquino’s officials failed to go beyond expressing ‘disappointment’ over the position of the US government to retain custody of Pemberton,” it said.

Kaisa Ka, a grassroots-based organization espousing “women’s liberation and over-all social change,” said it is “worried that the US government’s insistence that it keeps custody of a soldier accused of murdering a Filipina trans woman will further strengthen the thinking among US soldiers that they can get away with murder, and practically with any crime in the Philippines.”

It also called the US position “another mockery of Philippine sovereignty.”

Kaisa Ka said Filipinos had seen enough of American military abuses when the country was still host to two of the biggest US naval and air force facilities.

“This practice of the US to override justice system and laws emphasizes the US’s dominance over weaker states such as the Philippines,” Kaisa Ka said.

The group challenged the Aquino administration to show that it is leading a sovereign government by demanding Philippine custody of Pemberton.

‘Highly condemnable’

Anakpawis party-list Rep. Fernando Hicap, for his part, described the US government’s refusal to waive custody of Pemberton “highly condemnable.”

“The people should strongly demand not only for the Philippine government to assert custody of the American soldier while the murder case is still being prosecuted, but also for the immediate termination of the VFA,” he said.

He noted that recent developments in the Laude case were a “clear demonstration that VFA is favorable to the US and disadvantageous to Filipinos.”

He also called US insistence on keeping custody of Pemberton “a slap in the face of the Filipinos” and proof that the Aquino administration is helpless in upholding the justice system and national sovereignty.

“We could not even decide independently within our own territory. What’s the use of keeping him president?” He also assailed the administration for being incapable of protecting the welfare of Filipinos against American abuses.

“The US government’s undercutting of the Philippine justice system is just one of the many examples of how it has been acting out its superpower status, along with its brazen disregard of international laws and conventions as recently disclosed by reports of its use of torture methods against imprisoned suspected terrorists,” Hicap said. – With Jaime Laude, Alexis Romero, Ding Cervantes, Ric Sapnu, Jaime Laude,


FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Marine remains with US; Malacañang expects ‘full cooperation’ By Francisco Tuyay | Dec. 18, 2014 at 12:01am


US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said he had already notified the US Embassy in Manila of the US government’s intension to retain custody of the accused throughout the legal process.

JOSEPH Scott Pemberton, the US Marine accused of murdering Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, will remain in US custody despite the arrest warrant issued against him by an Olongapo City court, an official said Wednesday.

“The Philippine government has notified us that it will request custody as it can under the Visiting Forces Agreement but we, under the Visiting Forces Agreement, can decide as we well to retain custody throughout the judicial process,” Goldberg told DzRH radio.

Malacañang said it expects the US government’s full cooperation as it seeks full custody of Pemberton.

“We certainly would expect full cooperation with the US Embassy with respect to this point,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

But he acknowledged that the process of seeking custody of Pemberton would have to be done in accordance with the VFA.

“We formally seek custody of Mr. Pemberton but we have to go through the process within the purview of the Visiting Forces Agreement,” Lacierda said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the Philippine government would be asserting its right to take custody of Pemberton following Goldberg’s statement.

She said Foreign Affairs officials had already started working to get sole custody of the accused through the process provided by the VFA.

“The VFA Commission and the DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] are already working on it by talking to the US Embassy and our counterparts,” De Lima said.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said she wanted Pemberton placed in a regular jail after the arrest warrant issued against him.

“Normally, any person who has been formally accused in court goes to the city jail, so he [Pemberton] should go there,” Santiago said.

“Otherwise we will be giving undue discrimination in favor of a foreign national.”

Senator Francis Escudero urged Foreign Affairs to seek custody of Pemberton.

Pemberton is accused of shoving Laude’s head into a toilet bowl inside a comfort room of the Celzone Motel in Olongapo City on Oct. 11 to drown him, and apparently after discovering he was not a woman.

Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74 on Tuesday issued an arrest warrant against Pemberton, a day after state prosecutors filed a murder case against the US Marine.

Under the Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement, the Philippine government may request custody of any American serviceman facing criminal charges here, but the US government may grant or reject such request.

Goldberg said the US government had agreed to have the judicial process under Philippine laws to run its course in accordance with the provisions of the VFA.

“The judicial process will continue here,” Goldberg said.

“The Philippine government has asserted jurisdiction in the case under the Visiting Forces Agreement, so we will proceed with the judicial process under Philippine law.”

Goldberg said the US could formally request jurisdiction over the trial under the VFA.

“We can request jurisdiction but it’s the Philippines’ decision where to have the trial of the first instance,” he said.

“That was a decision given under the VFA for the Philippines so that the trial will be held here. The custody issue is the right of the US under the VFA to maintain throughout the judicial proceedings.”

Pemberton is being held in a 20-foot air-conditioned van inside Camp Aguinaldo and is being guarded by a US soldier and Filipino soldiers.

“Where he is being held is within a joint facility because we have a particular office in Camp Aguinaldo…so there are Filipino officers who come in and out of that facility as well or nearby,” Goldberg said.

“But the inner security and the custody, the formal legal custody remains with the US while there is a Philippine content.”

Goldberg said the facility within Camp Aguinaldo where Pemberton is being held was not an extension of US territory.

“Our embassy might have certain viability because of our status, but that’s not the case for Camp Aguinaldo. It’s a Philippine facility,” Goldberg said.

He said Pemberton’s trial must be concluded within a year under the VFA. With Joyce Pangco Pañares, Rey E. Requejo and Macon Ramos-Araneta


FROM THE TRIBUNE

Pemberton dodges arraignment, seeks DoJ reversal Written by Benjamin B. Pulta Saturday, 20 December 2014 00:00


Laude kin want media coverage, call on AFP to bring accused to jail

Indicted American serviceman, Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, had the first of many days in court yesterday to face the murder charges filed against him in connection with the death of a 24-year-old transgender, Jeffrey Laude alias Jennifer, last October.

Instead of pleading in an arraignment, Pemberton’s Filipino lawyers asked the court for a deferment of the trial until after their appeal before the Department of Justice (DoJ) of the local prosecutor’s recommendation to charge the 19-year-old Marine for the gory sex and murder crime.

Journalists were barred from the court hearing in the northern port city of Olongapo.

However, lawyers who attended the hearing and took photos described Pemberton as sitting quietly while wearing handcuffs in one corner of the tiny courtroom, surrounded by burly American security personnel.

The high-profile case has inflamed anti-US feelings in the Philippines and strained diplomatic relations between the long-time allies.

If Pemberton is found guilty of murder, he faces 40 years in jail.

Inside the court yesterday, the victim’s sister, Marilou Laude, said she was trembling with rage as she saw Pemberton for the first time.

“I wanted to grab his head and bang it against the wall,” Laude told reporters afterwards.

“We locked eyes briefly but he averted his gaze. I think he recognized that I’m the sister of Jennifer.

“(Pemberton)has such an innocent face. I wanted to ask him why he wanted my sister dead.”

Pemberton was booked and his mug shot taken before the court ordered him remanded to the Philippine military headquarters in Manila, according to Gruspe, the court clerk.

Pemberton has been under American military custody at the base, after the US government refused to hand custody of him over to the Philippine authorities.

The US government insists that, under a 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), it has a right to retain custody of any American soldier charged with a crime in the Philippines until the end of all judicial proceedings.

However the Philippine government has repeatedly demanded for Pemberton to be handed over, and expressed “disappointment” at the US decision.

Laude family lawyer Harry Roque criticized the detention arrangement, likening it to special treatment for the American suspect.

He said he has asked the court to order Pemberton’s transfer to a regular Philippine jail
Pemberton underwent mandatory fingerprinting and mugshots, but was not arraigned after his lawyers led by Rowena Garcia-Flores of the Angara, Abello, Concepcion, Regala and Cruz Law Offices (ACCRA Law) filed a motion seeking to suspend proceedings.

The defense lawyers asked the RTC not to proceed with the hearing until the resolution of their planned plea before the DoJ for reinvestigation of the case.

In cases against Filipinos accused of a crime, the court goes ahead with the arraignment and trial, despite an appeal for review before the DoJ.

There have been many instances when, even while the courts were ready for promulgation of the accused, the DoJ Review never came about.

Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde suspended the proceedings and set the next hearing on Monday, Dec.22, for the decision on the Pemberton’s motion.

The court also issued a commitment order for Pemberton to remain in detention at the Mutual Defense Board Security Engagement Facility inside Camp Aguinaldo.

Pemberton was immediately brought from the Hall of Justice back to his detention cell.

Pemberton was transported to Olongapo City under the cover of darkness early morning yesterday for court processing.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office chief, said combined elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and AFP escorted the convoy that brought Pemberton to Olongapo City.

Cabunoc said the multi-vehicle convoy left Camp Aguinaldo at around 2 a.m. and arrived in Olongapo City about 4:30 a.m.

“He was brought back to the MDB-SEB facility at around 1:10 p.m.,” said Cabunoc, adding that civilian vehicles were used during the travel.

The US government has maintained custody of Pemberton even after the issuance of a warrant of arrest by the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74 earlier this week.

However, the US has allowed the Philippine government jurisdiction over judicial process against Pemberton.

Defense lawyer Roque said the appearance of Pemberton was an initial victory in their quest for justice. “This is victory number two, but the bigger issue is his custody,” he stressed.

The lawyer argued that this issue should be resolved by the court and not the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), which decided not to press Pemberton’s custody after the US Embassy in Manila rejected its demand for transfer.

“The DFA cannot dictate upon the court. It can only file a manifestation but it is still the court that will decide, and our courts belong to an independent branch of our government,” he stressed.

He believes this issue would be resolved in the next days.

Roque said they would file another motion with the RTC to seek the transfer of Pemberton to the city jail.

The motion seeking media coverge stated that “Under international human rights law, the Private Complainant and her family members have the right to know and be informed about the proceedings as an integral part of their right to have access to justice. “In fact, Mrs. Julita S. Laude, the mother of the victim, actually resides in a municipality in Leyte province that is 6-hours by land from the nearest airport. Hence, she has financial, logistical, and transportation constraints in attending all the hearings in this case. Consequently, the press will be the main medium through which Mrs. Julita S. Laude can be informed of what transpired during the proceedings in this case.

“More importantly, barring the press from the court room might partake of a serious limitation on the right to free speech and of the press. The so-called fourth estate has the constitutionally guaranteed protection to report on matters of great public interest, including the criminal proceedings in this case.”

Another motion was also filed by the defense lawyers, this time asking the Olongapo court to compel the Armed Forces of the Philippines to surrender custody of the accused to the Olongapo City Jail.

The defense cited the following reasons, among which are that the custody of Accused Pemberton should be with Philippine authorities which have primary jurisdiction in this case, based on Article V, paragraph (3)(b) of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA); and that “ within the scope of their legal competence, the authorities of the Philippines and the United States shall assist each other in the arrest of United States personnel in the Philippines and in handing them over to authorities who are to exercise jurisdiction in accordance with the provisions of this article.

“The custody of Accused Pemberton should be with Philippine authorities, based on the Senate Resolution of concurrence (No. 18) to the VFA.

“The custody of Accused Joseph Scott Pemberton should be with Philippine authorities, based on the records of the Senate deliberations on the VFA.

Included in the motion were the plenary deliberations in the VFA.

Also mentioned was that of Opinion No. 094 of then Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Serafin R. Cuevas which states that “in extraordinary cases or cases of particular importance,” the Philippines “may deny the US request for custody” and even “demand to retain custody of the US offender.”

Malacañang claimed it wants the Laude slay case free of delays, as the Philippines’ request to be granted custody of Pemberton had been denied by the US.

Presidential communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in a radio interview, said the jurisdiction of the Philippines in the case is clear, although the US government has a different view of using the VFA.

“Our position is certain: No delays should hinder the development of justice, and the trial must reach an end within the year, although there is a disparity on the view with regard to custody,” Coloma said.

Coloma, in responding to the call of Senate President Franklin Drilon for the Department of Foreign Affairs to take the initiative to ask and talk with the US government on the provisions stated, said that “The President himself has said that there would be a constant review process since we have a VFA commission. There is no blockade to continuous study and debate or communication with the US on the diferent interpretations of the different provisions of the VFA,” Coloma said.

“What we are saying is that while things are being straightened out, researched and clarified, quite unclear provisions can be allowed to prevail for the wheels of justice to roll,” Coloma said.

Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon, for his part, said the Aquino administration’s failure to secure Philippine custody over slay suspect Pemberton can be considered a “betrayal of public trust,” an impeachable offense under the 1987 Constitution.

“The Filipino people expect the President to exhaust all measures to transfer custody over Pemberton to Philippine authorities. Yet his cabinet’s failure to even appeal Washington’s decision to keep the suspect under US custody reeks of betrayal of public trust,” Ridon said.

Earlier, the DFA announced that it will not appeal Washington’s refusal to transfer custody over Pemberton to the Philippines, saying that under the VFA, the US has the right to retain custody.
“The Aquino administration’s feeble-hearted response to the Pemberton case only highlights how the Philippines remains a neo-colony of the US, a vassal state whose leaders are ready to surrender sovereignty to Washington at any given moment,” Ridon said.

“The Filipino people, especially the Laude family, do not deserve a treasonous presidency that cannot even demand custody over a foreign murder suspect,” he stressed.

The lawmaker added that a congressional review of the VFA is not enough.

“The situation we find ourselves in – a situation in which we hold a suspect in a Philippine detention facility yet we cannot decide on his activities without first consulting the US – is a result of VFA’s lopsided provisions. For decades, the VFA has made a mockery of Philippine laws, and it’s time that we put a stop to all this. What we need is not a review of the VFA, but its abrogation,” Ridon said.

Meanwhile, the lawmaker said that the Olongapo Regional Trial Court (RTC) should not commute the murder charges against Pemberton to homicide.

“The evidence presented by the Olongapo Prosecutor’s Office is strong. The Olongapo RTC should not add insult to the injury by commuting the charges to homicide,” Ridon said. Charlie V. Manalo, Jason L. Labonera, Mario J. Mallari and AFP


 FROM PHILSTAR --THE FREEMAN

Cloudy Christmas in the Visayas (The Freeman) | Updated December 20, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


CEBU BUILDINGS AND SKYSCRAPERS TODAY

CEBU, Philippines - Visayas will have a cloudy Christmas but the public can expect rain in the days that will follow, said the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Administration.

“December 24 and 25 maayo ang panahon though cloudy gamay but no rain. Inig 26 and 27 perte nasad nato anang uwana kay expected musulod ang Low Pressure Area nga muagi sa Eastern Visayas and Bicol,” said PAGASA Visayas Director Oscar Tabad.

“Layo pa kaayo ni. More than 2,000 kilometers from Philippine land mass, it is still in the Pacific,” he said yesterday.

Cebu experienced rain in the past two days but Tabada clarified that there is no tropical cyclone or a Low Pressure Area.

He said the rains were brought by the strong North Eastern monsoon plus the tail-end of cold front.

The tail-end of cold front is described as the “front boundary of two air masses found in mid-latitudes,” which is often associated with rainfall and cloudiness normally over the northern portion of the country during the northern hemisphere winter.

Yesterday, PAGASA Mactan recorded 2.6 millimeters (mm) of rainfall from 8am to 12 noon.

The average monthly rainfall for the month of December is 145 mm.

“Uwan gyud ta karong adlawa (yesterday). Pero ugma (today), Saturday, arang-arang na atong panahon. Cebu will experience light to moderate rains nalang” Tabada said yesterday. — Jessa J. Agua/JMO (FREEMAN)


FROM THE FILAM STAR NEW WEBSITE

PH allows U.S. to keep custody of Pemberton By DANIEL LLANTO


U.S. Marine Lance Cpl Joseph Scott Pemberton

MANILA – In the stare-down contest over custody after a murder case against U.S. Marine Lance Cpl Joseph Scott Pemberton was brought before the courts, it was the Philippines that blinked.

The Philippines has bowed to U.S. insistence that local authorities cannot take custody of Pemberton, despite his being ordered arrested by an Olongapo City court for the death of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in October. From pfc, Pemberton was promoted to corporal even before the killing.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday it was no longer pushing for Philippine custody of Pemberton as the U.S. justification for refusing to turn him over to local authorities was “not inconsistent” with the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). This was a complete turnaround in a previous DFA stand.

Malacañang earlier said the VFA should not bar the Philippines from seeking custody of Pemberton. While admitting that the VFA has a provision stating that American servicemen shall be in U.S. custody until all legal proceedings are over, Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda maintained that the government can “request” custody of Pemberton.

But government now sings a different tune. “We will not request anymore. We will just wait for the court to advise us when the trial starts and where we expect Pemberton to appear,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said at a press briefing. “That is not inconsistent with the agreement. They have the right to take that position. What is important is that in the first place, Pemberton has submitted himself.”

The government’s decision to back down on a demand to keep custody apparently pleased former President Fidel V. Ramos who spoke at the 79th anniversary rites of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Wednesday. “That issue is serious for all of us but it must not be allowed to be the cause of any damage in Philippine-U.S. relations, because there are higher interests at stake.” FVR referred to the maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea involving the country and China.

The State Department said the “US is retaining the suspect until completion of all judicial proceedings” in accordance with the VFA.” This was echoed by U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg who cited “sensible reasons” to retain custody of Pemberton.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, for her part, said there is no way the Philippines can compel the U.S. to give up custody of Pemberton unless the latter is convicted. But she stressed the Philippines can always press its case, considering that the one involving Pemberton was an “extraordinary” one.

“We can only compel (the US government) for certain upon conviction because we will have to jail him. But at this stage, there are certain provisions that are subject to varying, differing interpretations,” she stressed. She said it was the lack of implementing guidelines that had bred differing interpretations of provisions in the VFA on custody of American soldiers facing criminal cases in the Philippines.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki nonetheless said they “will continue to cooperate with the government of the Philippines” in ensuring justice for Laude. The Olongapo City police confirmed that Pemberton would make a court appearance on Friday.

Goldberg also said they are “working closely with the Philippines on the trial, on the investigation, and we have performed as we are required to do under the VFA at every point along the way and we will continue to do that. I think people should know that we are doing this for certain reasons.”

The American ambassador rejected an appeal from the family of Laude that they be given a copy of the report of the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) on the killing of the transgender. “No. We deal with the government. The VFA is very clear on the fact that we have a government-to-government relationship on many aspects of the case. There is no direct relationship with the family on this kind of issues, he said.The DFA said the US is obliged under the VFA to make sure that its servicemen involved in infractions are present in all judicial proceedings.

“We will continue to cooperate with the government of the Philippines to ensure that justice is served,” Psaki said in a statement.

The Olongapo regional trial court issued an arrest warrant for Pemberton on Tuesday. Then the Philippine government formally requested the U.S. government through its embassy to turn over the suspect, but the request was denied.

Ambassador Goldberg however assured that Pemberton will attend hearings of the case.

"We're working very closely with the Philippine side because we are sympathetic and understand the issues involved here and many of the political issues involved in the custody matter," Goldberg said in a television interview.

"The thing for people to understand is that we are going to cooperate fully with the judicial process. We will make the suspect available for the proper hearings," Goldberg added. He noted that they are cooperating with the Philippine government in the investigation of Laude's case.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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