By Kathlyn dela Cruz, ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA – The Laude family lawyer on Tuesday expressed concern over the granting of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton’s motion to suspend proceedings against him in connection with the death of Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude.
The Olongapo Regional Trial Court (RTC) granted the motion of Pemberton, who was charged with murder, because of his pending petition with the Department of Justice (DOJ) for review of the finding of probable cause.
Pemberton’s lawyers argued that the prosecutors did not present enough evidence to charge him with the killing of Laude. They said the supposed evidence was “based on nothing but conjectures and speculations.”
Speaking to radio dzMM on Tuesday, Atty. Harry Roque, legal counsel of the Laude family, said they were saddened by the decision of the court.
Court rules state that arraignments may be suspended upon the request of the proper party if a petition for review is pending with the DOJ or the Office of the President. The suspension shall not exceed 60 days upon filing of the petition.
Roque said the delay in Pemberton’s trial will affect the entire proceedings, which, under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States, must be completed in a year.
“Ako po’y nalulungkot… Kung mawawala pa ang dalawang buwan o 60 days, 10 buwan na lang ang matitira. Tapos pag hindi pa natapos sa 10 buwan ito ay puwede nang makaalis ng bansa itong si Pemberton. ‘Yun ang pinakababahala ko,” he said.
He said he was also surprised that Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde of the Olongapo RTC Branch 74 immediately acted on the motion of Pemberton.
He noted that they were supposed to file a motion for inhibition not later than January 5. He said he sees a possible conflict of interest since Ginez-Jabalde and one of Pemberton’s lawyers, Rowena Garcia-Flores, were classmates in law school.
“Ang inaasahan ko hihintayin yung motion to inhibit at saka yun ang aaktuhan bago aktuhan itong mga mosyon na naisampa. So medyo nagulat ako na inaktuhan ito at ang resolusyon ay ganito,” he said.
While the court granted the motion of Pemberton, it junked the two petitions filed by the private prosecutors — to transfer the US Marine suspect to a regular jail in Olongapo and full media coverage of the trial.
“Ako’y disappointed talaga,” Roque said. “Hindi naman namin hinihingi ang live coverage on television. Ang hinihingi namin ay yung coverage lang. Tingin ko malinaw na malinaw na ang freedom of the press ay hindi po pwedeng supilin sa loob ng hukuman.”
“Siguro pwede pong ipagbawal ang live coverage pero di mo pwedeng ipagbawal ang reporters na pumasok. Talagang paglabag ito sa karapatan ng media at ng sambayanan sa pagkalap ng impormasyon,” he added.
He said they will file a motion for reconsideration before the court. He is hoping that a new judge will resolve their motion.
If their motion for reconsideration is dismissed by the court, Roque said they are determined to take the fight to the Supreme Court.