OLONGAPO CITY — Where is Pemberton? Is he still in the Philippines?
These were the questions raised by the family of Filipina transgender Jennifer Laude when US Marine Scott Joseph Pemberton did not attend the preliminary investigation on Oct. 21.
Emilie Fe Delos Santos, head of the public prosecutors, ordered Pemberton’s appearance before the panel in the next preliminary investigation on Oct. 27.
“What can we do now? Where are we going to find help now?” Julita Cabillan, mother of Laude, told the media after the hearing.
Malou, Laude’s sister, said there is a possibility that Pemberton may have already left the country.
“On whose door should we knock on?” she asked.
Laude was found dead in the toilet of Celzone Lodge on Oct. 11. She was last seen with accused Pemberton, according to witnesses.
Attendance not required?
Pemberton’s lawyer Rowena Flores-Garcia said the subpoena served to the US Marine did not require his personal appearance but only asked him to submit a counter affidavit in 10 days.
Harry Roque, lawyer of the Laude family, told the media that prosecutors countered it, saying that respondents are expected to attend the preliminary investigation.
Attendance of the US marine in the next hearing, said Delos Santos, would set a good example on the compliance of the US government as provided in the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
Garcia said she would ask Pemberton if he would attend the next preliminary investigation. Delos Santos, however, said it is imperative on the defense lawyers not to merely ask but also to confer and explain to their client the Philippine laws.
Witnesses were presented and affirmed their respective affidavits before the panel of prosecutors. Copies of the CCTV footages of Ambyanz Disco and Celzon Lodge were also submitted.
Delos Santos also advised the witnesses not to talk to the media to not complicate matters, adding that “less talk, no mistakes.”
On VFA, EDCA
Laude’s fiancee Marc Sueselbeck said during the media briefing that he found it confusing why the US would call the Philippines its ally but would not act on the case. No US official has, so far, expressed their personal condolences to the family, which, according to Sueselbeck, should have been a sign of their respect toward the Laude family.
He urged the Philippine government that, as a sovereign country, it should stand for its rights and protect their own people.
Liza Maza, co-chairperson of Makabayan Coalition and former representative of Gabriela Women’s Party, told Bulatlat.com that Pemberton’s absence in the first preliminary investigation goes to show that the US will protect and coddle the accused.
She said that with the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), such crimes are bound to happen from Luzon to Mindanao.
Ferdie Mendoza of Kapederasyon said that while they expect nothing from the US government, they all the more expect nothing from the Philippine government to act in the interest of the victims.
“It just started, yet the prospects are dark,” Maza said.
Cabillan said they would fight for justice until the end.
The next preliminary investigation is scheduled on Oct. 27. An ocular inspection of the bar and the hotel where Laude was found dead is set on Nov. 5. (bulatlat.com)