Judge Roline M. Ginez-Jabalde of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74 has ruled that US Marine soldier LCpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton did not murder Filipino male homosexual Jeffrey Laude.
The court said the prosecution failed to prove that Pemberton, then only a teen-ager at 19 years old when the incident happened, planned to kill Laude, a major component in the crime of murder. Pemberton was meted 6-12 yrs. imprisonment for the lesser crime of homicide, instead.
Records show that Pembertton and Laude, then 26 years old, checked-in at a cheap hotel along Magsaysay Drive on the night of October 11, 2014. Shortly thereafter, Pemberton left, leaving alone Laude who was found dead in the toilet by hotel staff.
Pemberton denied killing Laude, maintaining that the latter was alive when he left him in the hotel.
He admitted, however, to having a scuffle with Laude in self-defense in a confrontation after the marine discovered that Laude was a man pretending to be a woman.
Laude had enhanced breasts, long hair and wore female attire, although he still had his male organ unchanged.
The family of Laude reportedly asked for P100 M settlement but the US side refused to settle. The court, however, awarded them some P4.5 M in various damages, way below an alleged offer by Pemberton that the family refused.
City Mayor Rolen C. Paulino ordered the local police to go on high alert and cooperate well with other govt. agencies tasked in securing peace & order, inlcluding the American security escorts of Pemberton.
Leftist groups held pocket protest rallies in Metro-Manila and also in Olongapo City, which used to host the US Naval Base, Subic Bay until 1992.
Most Olongapo residents, generally pro US Base presence, are unsympathetic to Laude, reportedly a sex-worker with a reputation. Many expressed being unhappy with the negative impact of the case on the local economy as the US Navy has since restricted its personnel from going out for liberty in the city.
The US Embassy in Manila said the US will continue to abide by the terms of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in relation to Pemberton”s incarceration. (VVV)