PHILIPPINES: Monday, US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton charged with murder testified in court that he choked Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude, his lawyer said.
- The fight started when Joseph Scott Pemberton discovered that Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude was a transgender.
According to Rowena Flores, lawyer of Pemberton, Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, told the court in Olongapo city that Jennifer Laude was unconscious but breathing when he left her in the shower of a motel, where they checked in to have sex after meeting in a bar in October last year.
Harry Roque, lead counsel for the Laude family said the US marine testified he held Laude in an “arm lock” until he stopped moving. “He then dragged Laude to the bathroom and dumped her,” he added.
Philippine government prosecutors charged US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton with murder in December, saying there was probable cause that he killed Laude in an attack that was aggravated by treachery, abuse of superior strength and cruelty. Laude had apparently been strangled and drowned in a toilet bowl.
Flores said US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton told the court that he fought with and subdued Laude in self-defense, but denied murdering her. US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton admitted he and Laude fought after oral sex because Laude did not have a female organ, she said.
Pemberton, 22 at the time, said Laude, 26, slapped him, causing him to respond “in defense, after some time, to subdue Jeffrey, Pemberton held Laude’s head under his armpit. Laude stopped moving. Pemberton tried to revive her,” Flores added.
On Aug. 17, Pemberton’s mother, Lisa, gave the first testimony for the defense, stressing that her son was a good, tolerant man who had gay friends and who has a lesbian sister.
Prosecutors said that Marine Lance Cpl. Jairn Michael Rose, who went out with US Marine Pemberton that night, acknowledged that the suspect later confided on their ship that he attacked the woman by choking her after discovering that she was transgender when she undressed.
Laude was found dead by an employee minutes after Pemberton left the motel.
US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton was taken to the Olongapo trial court by an armed escort from his detention cell at Camp Aguinaldo.
The case has the potential to damage Philippines–United States relations. There is an existing Philippines–United States Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), complemented by the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and by annual military exercises known as Balikatan, all of which are under greater scrutiny. Several protests have been organized in the Philippines and the United States calling for the Philippines to cancel both agreements.
This is the second reported criminal case involving a United States Marine in the Philippines under the existing Visiting Forces Agreement. In 2005, four Marines were tried in the Philippines for rape in what became known as the Subic rape case. Three were acquitted at trial and the fourth was convicted at trial but later acquitted on appeal after victim “Nicole” recanted her testimony and immediately emigrated to the United States.
Transgender rights activists and the left-wing Bagong Alyansang Makabayan have protested what they see as the “special treatment” of U.S. troops, such as Pemberton, in the Philippines, compared to the second-class citizen treatment of Filipinos, such as Laude, in their own land, which they characterize as neo-colonialism. The Communist Party of the Philippines condemned the United States’ refusal to turn over full custody of Pemberton to Philippine authorities and called for the abolition of the Visiting Forces Agreement which the party views as lopsided to US military interests and violates Philippine sovereignty. The communist group also views that the Philippine government refuses to fully assert full jurisdiction on the case. The Philippines was a colony of the United States during the early 20th century.IMAGE/Olongapo City Police