BITTEN, beaten, and drowned. These, thus far, are the only facts in the death of Jennifer Laude. These are the only facts that the autopsy on her dead body showed. Nothing more.
There are more questions than answers now as the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office started the preliminary investigation on the death of Laude yesterday, October 21, in the Philippines. The suspect, Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the United States Marine Corps, did not show up.
THE SUSPECT: US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton | Photo from Pemberton’s Facebook page
Three colleagues of Pemberton — Privates First Class Daniel Fabian Pulido, Jairn Michael Rose, and Benett Erik Dahl — recalled the events on the night of October 11 when Laude was found dead inside an inn in Olongapo City.
Pulido said he, Dahl, and Rose “went to a hotel for a boom boom” and after that, a “questionable-looking female” approached them and said: “your friend killed my friend.”
READ MORE ON ‘Your friend killed my friend’: What Pemberton’s Marine pals recall about night of Laude killing
THE VICTIM: Jennifer Laude with her fiance, Marc Sueselbeck. They were supposed to be married in Thailand in 2015 | Photo from Justice for Jennifer Laude Facebook page.
Lawyer Rowena Garcia, who represented Pemberton, said the US Marine was not compelled by the prosecutor’s subpoena to attend the preliminary investigation. It required him to only submit a counter-affidavit until October 27.
READ MORE ON Pemberton no-show at preliminary investigation for Laude slay
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the American government is not seeking any special privileges in its defense arrangement with the Philippines, and is letting the rule of law decide the fate of military personnel and citizens involved in infractions, philstar.com reported.
READ MORE ON: “Rule of law must be upheld – Kerry”
Even as the case is under investigation, an agency under the Office of the President of the Philippines, joined mounting calls for justice for Laude’s death.
In an emailed statement, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) strongly condemned the killing of Laude, lamenting the violence that had been committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The commission reiterated that “no one deserves to die in such tragic and violent way, most especially, no one deserves to be violated, harassed, and murdered for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transexual (LGBT).”
“The killing of Jennifer Laude is a clear manifestation of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) and perpetrators must be held accountable and punished for such vicious acts,” the PCW statement reads in part.
The PCW is the primary policy-making and coordinating body on women and gender equality concerns. As the oversight body on women’s concern, the PCW leads in advocating for women’s empowerment and gender equality.
The PCW added that human rights and freedoms must be enjoyed by all, without distinction as to age, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, social status or political affiliation and to mobilize resources in order to curb the acts of discrimination and the effects thereof.
“The Commission is one with the nation in seeking justice for Laude and joins the call for a speedy, honest, and fair trial,” the PCW statement continues.
THE INVESTIGATION: WHO ARE INVOLVED?
Head: Olongapo City Prosecutor Emilie Fe Delos Santos
Members: Assistant City Prosecutors Laurence Taliping, Rommel Baligod,
and Ria Niña Susuko, and State Prosecutor Nolibien Quiambao
Harry Roque, counsel for the Laude family
Rowena Garcia, counsel for Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton
Meanwhile, women’s group Gabriela also reiterated their call for justice for Laude by holding a protest action in front of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court on Tuesday afternoon.
In a separate statement, Tuesday, Gabriela Secretary General Joms Salvador said that their protest action is too see whether Laude murder suspect US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton will appear before the court during the preliminary investigation and also to see if the US will recognize Philippine jurisdiction over the murder case.
“We dare the US to show Pemberton to the Filipino people by bringing him to the hearing,” said Salvador.
Salvador added that Pemberton’s appearance during the preliminary investigation “is a crucial litmus test” on the US’ claim that they will cooperate with the Philippines in Laude’s case.
“Talk is cheap and only actions matter. If the US truly respects our country as a partner, as it would like as to believe, it would compel Pemberton to appear, and even surrender him to Philippine authorities for custody, even without the Department of Foreign Affairs’ formal request,” she said.
In the same statement, Gabriela announced plans to mount protest actions for the week, which will culminate on Friday when Laude’s body will be cremated. On that day, Salvador said, all of Gabrel’s chapters across the country and abroad will hold a Global Day of Action to “demand justice for (Laude) as we also demand justice for the entire Filipino nation whose sovereignty and security are imperiled by US presence in the country.”
The Olongapo City Police filed murder charges against Pemberton at the Olongapo City State Prosecutor’s office on October 15. On Wednesday morning, Oct. 22, Pemberton was flown by a US chopper to Camp Aguinaldo, headquarters of the Philippine Armed Forces for detention at a makeshift detention facility.
Family members and lawyers of Laude tried to see Pemberton in the afternoon but were denied entry to his quarters. — With a report from Cong B. Corrales