By Caroline Howard
MANILA – The family of slain transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude is protesting as to why US intelligence allegedly withheld evidence of the crime. They also insist the Philippines should assert its right to take custody of US Marine suspect Joseph Scott Pemberton.
This runs contrary to the United States’ position that it has the right to custody until all judicial proceedings are completed.
“The VFA provides that the Philippines can opt to refuse America’s request for custody,” said Atty. Harry Roque, counsel for the Laude family. “If the case involves extraordinary cases, we could say no to the American request. … The AFP has him in our camp, so it would be foolhardy for authorities to let go of Pemberton this time around.”
Roque adds that the Naval Command Intelligence Service or NCIS shoud not have withheld – from the Luade family – its report which includes material evidence, including the unused condom that bore Pemberton’s fingerprints, and his own declaration to two soldiers that he may have killed a “lady man.”
“My interpretation is he must have been preparing to put it on and discovered Jennifer, he was a man, and must’ve freaked,” said Atty. Harry Roque. “That’s his account to his colleagues onboard the ship, including his superior. He apparently made a declaration against interest that he may have killed a ‘lady man’ and that was so material.”
Roque says Laude died in such a cruel manner, that it showed intent to kill.
“The extent of injuries Jennifer suffered were unnecessary,” said Atty. Roque. “He was repeatedly punched. There were indications she was bitten in the face. Malinaw na malinaw sa akin yung aspeto ng treachery, cruelty, and abuse of strength to make it murder.”
Meanwhile, a cashier who worked at the motel where Laude died has decided to apply for the witness protection program. The witness known as Vads recalls the night he found Laude’s lifeless body.
“Nagtaka ako bakit niya iniwang bukas yung room,” said Vads. “Pagkasilip ko, nakabukas bintana, bedsheet wala na, tapos sandals nasa tapat ng CR nakasara. Tapos, binalikan ko, kadalasan hindi naiiwan yung gay, kadalasan nauuna gay, kaya weird yung pangyari.”
Roque says he expects US authorities to present Pemberton and the soldiers Pemberton spoke to during judicial proceedings.
“The whole world is looking at America now,” said Atty. Roque. “The crucial witnesses are in their possession and if they don’t make available for judicial proceedings, the reputation of America as a land of fair play will be adversely affected.”
But if the US government refuses to cooperate, Roque says he will again bring that battle to court.