Olongapo RTC convicts Pemberton of homicide on Laude slay
OLONGAPO CITY — The Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) convicted on Tuesday United States Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton guilty beyond reasonable doubt of homicide for the killing of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in 2014.
Olongapo City RTC Branch 74 Presiding Judge Roline Ginez Jabalde, in a ruling which was read by Clerk of Court Atty. Gerry Gruspe, sentenced Pemberton to suffer imprisonment of from 6 to 12 years in a jail facility in the Philippines.
Judge Jabalde ordered that Pemberton be temporarily committed to the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.
The US marine was also ordered to pay the heirs of Laude P50,000 in civil damages; P4.32 million in loss of earning capacity; P155,250 reimbursement of wake burial and other funeral expenses; P50,000 in moral damages; and P30,000 in exemplary damages.
“We would like to thank everybody. We were not content with the 6 to 12 years imprisonment. But in a way, we are happy that he will be committed to the National Bilibid Prison,” said Julita, mother of the transgender woman Jennifer.
Jennifer’s sister Malou also expressed dismay over the decision of homicide but said she was pleased that Pemberton will be committed to the National Bilibid Prisons.
The 26-year-old Laude was found dead in the bathroom of Celzone Lodge with her neck covered in injuries, her head leaning against the toilet bowl.
An autopsy report later said that Laude died by asphyxiation due to drowning and strangulation.
According to witnesses, Laude was last seen checking in at the motel with Pemberton.
The two had met at a nearby bar where Pemberton was spending the night with fellow servicemen after participating in US-Philippines joint military exercises in Subic Bay.
Party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III said Pemberton can still post bail and be freed to go anywhere he can be protected, including the US Embassy or any American ship docked in Philippine waters.
The former justice opined that Pemberton, having been convicted of homicide by a lower court, can be granted bail because the crime he now faces has been downgraded from murder.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, also a lawyer, confirmed that Pemberton may, indeed, be granted bail as a result of the decision.
Pemberton’s lawyers have vowed to appeal the decision of Judge Jabalde.
“You know, his conviction is homicide which is a bailable offense,” Bello said.
He pointed out that because Pemberton will contest the decision before a higher court, presumably the Court of Appeals, he now faces the offense which under Philippine laws is bailable.
“Now, his conviction for the record, is not yet final In other words, he still enjoys the constitutional presumption of innocence,” Bello explained.
The former justice secretary, who also used to be the chief legal counsel under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, added that the convicted US military man can go anywhere within the country but must be present when the court summons him.
“He can go anywhere, provided that he is with leave of court. But if he wants to go abroad and somebody will object, the court may issue a hold departure order,” Bello answered when asked if Pemberton can stay in the US Embassy or an American ship docked in Philippine waters.
Department of Justice’s (DOJ) National Prosecution Service (NPS) Head Prosecutor General Claro A. Arellano hailed the successful conviction of another controversial case secured by the prosecutors.
According to Arellano, the successive conviction secured by their ranks in the cases against Jason Ivler and United States Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, which are considered as “high-profile cases”, only showed that the fiscals are persistently prosecuting those who should be held liable for violation of existing laws in the country.
Arellano was among the NPS officials who attended the promulgation of the sentence against Pemberton.
Meanwhile, Senate President Franklin Drilon said the decision of the Olongapo Regional Trial Court (RTC) on the case of Pemberton won’t affect the bilateral and diplomatic relationship between the Philippines and the United States.
”I am confident that the decision will not in any way affect the bilateral and diplomatic relationship of the Philippines and the United States of the America,” Drilon said in a press statement.
Drilon is expecting the US to comply with and respect the decision, saying Pemberton “given equal opportunity to defend himself before a court of law.”
”The crime was committed by an individual through his own acts in Philippine territory. The country has to uphold and promote respect for the laws of our nation,” Drilon said.
Drilon said he fully support the court decision which is “based on applicable laws and jurisprudence, and according to what is just and right.”
”I also laud the Court’s ability to render its judgment within a reasonable time. Any further delay would have been prejudicial to both parties. Hence, I admire the Court for its perseverance, fairness, probity, and complete independence in handling the case,” he said.
On the place of detention, Drilon said Pemberton should be detained at the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.
”The place of detention should be cleared in the Visiting Forces Agreement. But for me, it should be Muntinlupa because he was already convicted and that’s the place of detention for convicted prisoners,” Drilon said in a radio interview.
Drilon said the Philippines and the US should agree where Pemberton should be detained based on the VFA.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV agreed with Drilon that the detention should be a joint decision by both countries as provided by the VFA.
”Now that Pemberton has been convicted, both the Philippines and the US should find prison or jail that will be agreed on by both parties. It’s not arbitrary decision,” Trillanes said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum at the Luneta Hotel.
The Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) has ordered the Philippine Commission on the Visiting Forces (PCFV) to submit the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Philippines and the United States of America regarding the confinement of convicted Pemberton.
In a two-page order, Olongapo City RTC Branch 74 Presiding Judge Roline M. Ginez Jabalde directed PCVF Executive Director Eduardo Oban Jr. to submit to the court within a period of five days from Tuesday the MOA entered into between the Philippines and the United States of America on the confinement of accused Pemberton after conviction.
The RTC said that pending submission of the MOA and the written agreement between the Philippines and the United States of America, Pemberton is temporarily confined or detained to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Custodial Center at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City under the supervision of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
Otherwise, the RTC added, the commitment order dated Dec. 1, 2015 shall be enforced.
The said commitment order stated that Pemberton should be incarcerated at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.