US refuses to hand over marine accused of killing transgender Filipino
SOURCE: The Guardian
The United States embassy in Manila has turned down a request from Philippine authorities to hand over a marine accused of the killing of a transgender Filipino, a move that could spark anti-American protest in the former US colony.
The marine, Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is being held at a US facility at the main Philippine army base, was charged with the murder of Jeffrey Laude, known as Jennifer, who was found dead on 11 October in a hotel in Olongapo City, north-west of the capital.
“The United States will retain custody of Pemberton as provided by the United States-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” the embassy said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The United States has the right to retain custody of a suspect from the commission of the alleged offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”
Manila and Washington signed the Visiting Forces Agreement in 1998, to allow US forces to hold military drills in the Philippines to test the readiness of the allies, and the pact sets legal rules on how to treat erring servicemen.
The Philippines formally sought custody of Pemberton in a letter from the foreign ministry to the US embassy after his arrest was ordered by the Olongapo City trial court on Monday.
“There was a warrant of arrest issued by the court,” the presidential spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, told reporters in the Philippine capital. “We have to enforce the warrant.”
In a statement, the foreign ministry said, “In accordance with the Visiting Forces Agreement, we look forward to the full cooperation of the US government in ensuring that justice is secured for Jeffrey Laude.”
Anti-US activists urged the government to terminate its pact with Washington after failing to enforce its sovereignty.
“The US embassy refusal to turn over Pemberton is an insult to our nation and our people,” said Renato Reyes, leader of the leftwing Nation movement, vowing to hold a protest outside the US embassy. “The Aquino government must terminate the VFA.”
The justice secretary, Leila de Lima, and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said the American authorities should hand over the US marine and transfer him from detention in a US facility to a Philippine jail.