By Doris Bigornia
OLONGAPO CITY – In just a little over two months since Jennifer Laude was found dead inside a motel in Olongapo City, state prosecutors were able to file a murder case against the US suspect, Joseph Scott Pemberton.
Laude’s family and lawyers call this an initial success.
They are well aware of the challenges that lie ahead, given that the accused is an American serviceman. No American soldier has ever served a full sentence in the Philippines.
“Inaasahan namin ang issuance ng warrant of arrest kaagad agad,” said the lawyer for Laude family, Virgie Suarez-Pinlac. “This is a murder case, non-bailable, kaya dapat sa buong taon dapat nakaulong si Pemberton.”
On October 11, Laude, a transgender woman, was found dead inside a motel room toilet. His body slumped against the toilet bowl. Forensics say he was beaten and drowned.
According to several witnesses, Pemberton was with Laude inside that room just minutes before Laude’s body was discovered.
Pemberton’s lawyers had insisted there was no probable cause to try the soldier for murder.
If the case reaches the court, they had hoped it would be homicide.
But the Justice Department says there was treachery, abuse of superior strength, and cruelty – enough reasons to call it murder.
The Foreign Affairs Department lauds the prosecutors for a speedy investigation of the case.
A statement from them said, “In accordance with the VFA, we look forward to the full cooperation of the US government in ensuring that justice is secured for Jeffrey ‘Jennifer’ Laude.”
The DFA says it expects full cooperation from the US government once trial begins. But, the department also noted that provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement should also be followed.
Outside the prosecutor’s office, a small group of people gathered to call for justice for Jennifer Laude. With the initial victory, they vowed to press on and see the fight to the end.
“Hinihiling na lang po natin ngayon, pagdating sa korte, sama sama pa rin po tayo,” said Malou Laude, Jennifer’s sister.