US marine fails to attend Philippine murder hearing

A US marine accused of murder fails to appear before Philippine court, fueling sentiment against US military presence

US marine fails to attend Philippine murder hearing

World Bulletin/News Desk

A U.S. marine accused of murder failed to appear at a preliminary court hearing Tuesday.

The non-appearance of Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton at the Olongapo City Hall of Justice, Zambales province, is likely to stoke deep-rooted anger over the U.S. military's treatment of Philippine civilians and provoke renewed calls for U.S. troops to be kicked out.

Pemberton is accused of the murder of 26-year-old transgender woman Jeffrey Laude, known as Jennifer, in Olongapo City on October 11. She had been beaten and strangled.

The city prosecutor had instructed Pemberton to appear in the preliminaryinvestigation and GMA News reported that the U.S. embassy in Manila was served a subpoena last week.

However, GMA said Pemberton’s lawyer Rowena Garcia argued the subpoena did not compel her client to attend the hearing but merely submit a sworn statement.

The news website quoted Prosecutor Emilie Fe Delos Santos as telling the defense lawyer: “The attendance of your marine will show a good example on the relationship of the Philippines and the U.S.”

Pemberton is being held on the USS Peleliu, an amphibious assault ship morred in Subic Bay, northwest of capital Manila. He is one of 3,500 U.S. military personnel taking part in a joint exercise with the Philippines armed forces.

The killing has inflamed anger at the presence of U.S. forces in the Philippines and comes a few months after the U.S. signed a controversial pact to boost its military presence in the country.

Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela, an alliance of Philippine women's groups, had said Pemberton's appearance would be a "crucial litmus test" of the U.S.'s willingness to cooperate with the investigation.

She told the Philippine Star newspaper: “The U.S. wants us to believe that they will cooperate but their actions so far prove otherwise. First, the U.S. embassy did not commit to produce Pemberton at the hearing, then they allowed the four U.S. marines who were witnesses in the murder case to leave the country. With the U.S.’s deceptive moves, how are we even sure that Pemberton is still onboard the Peleliu?”

Previous incidents involving U.S. personnel, such as the case of Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, convicted of rape by a Philippine court in 2006 but acquitted three years later, have fostered the belief that U.S. servicemen act with impunity towards the local population.

On Monday, President Benigno Aquino III said the case should not sour ties with the U.S., particularly the regular execises the U.S. military carries out on Philippine territory.

Two agreements – the Visiting Forces Agreement that governs U.S. military behavior and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, a 10-year deal that allows the U.S. to increase its military presence – are much criticized.

They are vital to U.S. plans to focus its military and economic power on the Asia-Pacific region to curb China's influence.

The Visiting Forces Agreement, signed in 1998, allowed the U.S. to establish more than 20 ‘semi permanent’ military bases and has allegedly been used to shield service members from Philippine law.

 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 21 Ekim 2014, 12:54

Muhammed Öylek

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