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VIDEO | Pemberton meted 6 to 12 years for homicide in Jennifer Laude case

US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton (right) under tight guard at the promulgation of the case against him for killing Jennifer Laude. (photo by KJ Rosales, PhilStar)
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(UPDATE 4 - 9:11 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines - US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was found guilty of homicide on Tuesday for the killing transgender Jennifer Laude on October 11 last year.

He was sentenced to 6 to 12 years imprisonment for the crime.

The Olongapo Hall of Justice, where it took the clerk of court almost three hours, with two brief breaks,  to read the decision, was under tight security as activist groups staged protests outside. 

The court also ordered Pemberton to pay P50,000 in moral damages in civil indemnity for Laude's death.

P155,200 for funeral expenses was granted by the court.

The court said it could not grant the "outrageous" and "excessive" amount of not less than P100 million that the Laude family was seeking for moral damages, even as Julieta, the mother of Jennifer, maintained, in Filipino, that the family's grief is "unquantifiable".

Crying, Julieta Laude said, in Filipino: "I am very thankful. I am not content with the 6 to 12 years imprisonment, although the important thing is that he will be jailed. My daughter did not die in vain, because Pemberton will be jailed."

The court deemed that the most appropriate amount for moral damages was P50,000 in accordance with jurisprudence.

Sources at the Department of Justice disclosed that, in spite the order of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) to have Pemberton jailed at NBP, the convict is to remain in detention at Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

In a one-page statement, DOJ said personnel of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) have been deployed at Camp Aguinaldo to receive Pemberton in compliance with the order issued by Olongapo City RTC Branch 74 Judge Roline Jinez Jabalde.

"He shall be received by BuCor personnel and immediately detained there until his appeal is decided with finality by our courts," DOJ said.

The statement also hinted that Pemberton might be transferred to another detention facility as provided for under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

"It is possible that Lance Corporal Pemberton may be transferred to another detention facility at some point, as provided for under the VFA between the governments of the Philippines and the United States," it said.

"In any case, his detention shall at all times be carried out within Philippine territory, under guard by and in line with existing regulations of the BuCor in observance of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Nicolas vs Romulo in February 2009," the DOJ added further, referring to the High Tribunal’s ruling in the case of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, who was convicted by a Makati RTC in 2005 for raping a Filipina at the former US naval base in Subic, Zambales.

Pemberton, 20, was taken by land transportation Tuesday morning from detention at the Joint US Military Assistance Group compound in Camp Aguinaldo for the verdict at the Olongapo Regional Trial Court Branch 74.

The US Marine, in testimony he gave in August, admitted fighting with and subduing Laude in self-defense, but not killing her, at the Celzone Lodge, where they had checked in after meeting each other in a bar, when he found out she was a transgender woman.

Laude was found slumped, her head in the toilet bowl, of room number 1 of the lodge.

The American was on shore leave after participating in joint US-Philippine military exercises. He and Laude met in a bar following joint US military exercises near the city of Olongapo.

The case has reignited long-simmering anti-American sentiment in the Philippines.

Pemberton's homicide conviction is the first under a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries signed in 1998, covering the legal liability of US troops taking part in military operations in the Philippines.

Leftist activists have used the Pemberton case to attack the VFA and the close defense ties between the United States and its former colony, the Philippines.

Judge Roline Jinez Jabalde sentenced Pemberton to six to 12 years in jail -- after the charge was lowered from murder which carries a heavier penalty -- citing mitigating circumstances including Laude not revealing her gender identity.

Lawyer Harry Roque said "We are very, very angry that the court considered these mitigating circumstances to lower the sentence."

The court heard that Pemberton and Laude agreed to have sex after meeting, but that the drunken Marine turned violent when he discovered Laude still had male genitals.

Pemberton acted out of "passion and obfuscation" the court said, adding that "in the heat of passion, he arm-locked the deceased, and dunked his (her) head in the toilet."

"The killing of Laude amounted only to homicide" and did not have the legal elements of murder, including treachery, the court said.

A Laude family lawyer, Virgie Suarez, said that under the decision, Pemberton would serve at least six years and that authorities would have the option of holding him longer, depending on his behavior.

Here's a News5 video report by Mon Gualvez:

Speaking in front of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Tuesday afternoon, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said: "While we welcome and laud the decision of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court to convict Pemberton after finding him guilty of the crime of homicide, we note how the intricacies of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) again come into play.

"For now, the court has ordered that Pemberton be temporarily imprisoned in New Bilibid Prison, yet there is a caveat: This is subject to the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the agreement between Manila and Washington.

"Therefore, there remains the possibility that the VFA may again snag another convicted criminal from being penalized under the full extent of Philippine laws. Such caveat reminds us of the case of Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, who was able to escape like a thief in the night from the clutches of Philippine laws back in 2005. This must not happen again."

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said Pemberton "should be committed immediately to National Bilibid Prison just like any other convicted criminal; no more special treatment to a criminal like him. It will be a pyrrhic victory and his conviction an empty one if he continues to be coddled by the United States while the government does nothing."

Rep. Neri Colmenares said Pemberton should be imprisoned right away and "there is no need for clarification. Cases like the killing of Jennifer Laude also highlight the dangers of treaties like the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), adding to the reasons why these agreements have to be junked. They not only trample on our sovereignty but also pose a clear and present danger to our women and children."

Atty. Harry Roque, a lawyer representing the victim's family at the trial, issued the following statement:

"The Court's verdict in the killing of Jeffrey 'Jennifer' Laude is less than salutary. While it rendered a guilty verdict on US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, it failed to appreciate evidence pointing to the crime of murder. The verdict of homicide guarantees that Pemberton could be freed in as little as six years on good behavior.

"In the first place, it remains to be seen whether he will even get to serve his sentence on Philippine soil. The Philippine government, from all indications, is unwilling to assert full sovereignty over Pemberton on the question of where he will serve his sentence.

"We fear a repeat of the Smith case, where an American serviceman convicted of rape by a Makati regional trial court was spirited away by US authorities with the assistance of Filipino officials from the Makati City Jail in the dead of the night before he could be transferred to the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa. The subservience of Philippine authorities to US interests on our own territory must end.

"We call on the Philippine government to take custody of Pemberton and forthwith commit him to prison to serve his sentence at the National Penitentiary.

"Meanwhile we are studying all legal options, including the possibility of an appeal on the homicide verdict."

(With a report from Agence France-Presse)

See also:

THE LAUDE VERDICT | It's homicide, then the impasse ...