Due process must be followed, Palace tells Laude family
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said Saturday it undertstood the grief felt by the family of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude but stressed that certain processes had to be followed in obtaining justice for the slain transgender woman.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that calls for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement and justice for the murdered 26-year-old transgender were two different issues that should be addressed separately.
Valte responded to a question that the quest for justice for Laude could be muddled with the advocacy of her family’s lawyer, Harry Roque, to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement.
“The issue on the VFA and the calls for its abrogation, calls for its review should be discussed on a different level.… There are many considerations when you talk about the review of a particular agreement that we have with another sovereign country,” Valte said over government-run Radyo ng Bayan.
“As far as the investigation on Jennifer’s death is going, there is a process that we have to follow, and we have to follow it to the letter to make sure that there [are] no technical aspects that are being forgotten,” Valte said, adding it would be a “disservice to Jennifer” if the processes were followed haphazardly.
Laude was found dead in a motel in Olongapo City on October 11, her head dunked in a toilet bowl. An autopsy report later showed that she had drowned and had been badly beaten as well.
The suspect was identified Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the US Marines, who was on rest and recreation following a joint military exercise with Filipino soldiers.
Pemberton is now being held on the USS Peleliu, docked at the Subic port. The US Embassy vowed that the ship would not leave pending the investigation into Laude’s killing.
Debates over the VFA and the US custody of erring American servicemen were raised anew with the Laude case.
The Laude family and their lawyers fear that Pemberton might be spirited away by the US government and would evade jail time.
But Valte said that according to VFA Commission executive director Eduardo Oban, the Philippines would seek custody of Pemberton.
Under the VFA, the Philippines has jurisdiction over a case while the US would have custody of American servicemen suspected of committing a crime on Philippine soil. However, the Philippines may ask to take custody of suspects on trial.
Asked if Malacañang would discourage the family of Laude from trying to get on the USS Peleliu to symbolically deliver the murder complaint to Pemberton themselves, Valte replied: “I think at this point, anything that we say may be construed differently. We understand the grief and we can only imagine the grief that the Laude family is going through because of the death of Jennifer. And I know that there are also some groups reaching out to them in order to help them, so let’s leave it at that.”
Asked when President Benigno Aquino III would issue a statement regarding Laude’s death, Valte said that the President would issue a statement if journalists are able to interview him.
“I’m sure he’ll have something to say about this. I’m quite certain of that. The media just haven’t had the chance to interview President Aquino this past week,” Valte said.
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