Olongapo braces for more GI visits in coming months
OLONGAPO CITY—The city is deploying shore patrol officers under a proposed task force to prevent crimes while American servicemen spend their liberty (rest and recreation) period here.
Local law enforcers will serve as shore patrol officers and would be stationed at entry and exit points of the Subic Bay Freeport to monitor vehicles entering and leaving the economic zone, according to Mayor Rolen Paulino.
“We are bringing back shore patrol [officers] and they will ensure that US troops will not go to areas that are considered off limits or out of bounds,” Paulino said.
He said a command center would also be set up for easy coordination of incident reports involving American troops.
“These [safety measures] will only be activated when visiting troops are around,” he said.
Plans are being drawn up once American ships again frequent the area, should the murder trial of US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton wind up in the next three months, he said.
Pemberton is awaiting a local court’s verdict on the murder charge filed against him by the family of slain Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude.
Laude was found dead in a motel here on Oct. 11 last year. Witnesses had identified Pemberton as the foreigner who was with Laude when they checked into the motel.
“Once the trial of Pemberton is over, we’re looking forward to more frequent visits of US ships and their troops,” Paulino said.
Last year, the US Pacific Command (US Pacom) canceled the R&R of US servicemen in the Philippines after Pemberton was detained for Laude’s slaying.
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chair Roberto Garcia earlier said the US Pacom had eased up on its servicemen’s liberty R&R and allowed them to leave their ships but not the free port.
Paulino said task force members would ensure the safety of Olongapo residents and visiting Americans on shore leave.
He said he planned to form Task Force Liberty, which would be composed of representatives from Olongapo villages, the police, the Philippine Army Reserve Command, the city council and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Aside from US servicemen, Japanese naval and army troops are also expected to visit Subic Bay in the coming months, the mayor said.
SPO1 Johnstone Lloyd Cortez, chief investigator of Police Station 3 here, said a number of US troops visiting this city in the last 10 years had been charged with “unruly behavior.”
“Based on my personal observation, some of these visiting US servicemen were involved in bar fights with Filipinos over unpaid bills or being too drunk,” Cortez told the Inquirer.
He said the police station, which is near a stretch of entertainment clubs frequented by visiting US servicemen, had received complaints from bar owners about Americans being “too annoying” or “rowdy.”
But none of the documented cases was as grave as Pemberton’s murder charge.
“We consider the case of Laude as an isolated incident since the reports we received involving US soldiers were mostly petty crimes over the years,” said Cortez.
He said most of the complaints against US soldiers did not reach the court since American shore patrols would usually intervene and fix the brawls before the complainants could seek police assistance.
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