Take Custody of Pemberton Now
Centerlaw welcomes the issuance of the Warrant of Arrest against Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton of the United States Marine Corps for the murder of Jennifer Laude. Centerlaw represents the family of Jennifer Laude.
According to Ethel Avisado, lawyer and Bertha Foundation Fellow with Centerlaw, “We are closely monitoring what actions that the government will take, in particular the Department of Foreign Affairs, to ensure that the Warrant of Arrest is served and we get custody of Pemberton at the soonest possible time.”
Centerlaw’s position is that the custody of Pemberton should be with the Philippine authorities and that he should be jailed in the same manner in which any other person charged with a crime in the Philippines is jailed.
According to the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), in Article V(1)(a), Philippine authorities shall have jurisdiction over United States personnel with respect to offenses committed within the Philippines and punishable under the law of the Philippines.
Further, the VFA provides, in Article V(4), 4. Within the scope of their legal competence, the authorities of the Philippines and the United States shall assist each other in the arrest of United States personnel in the Philippines and in handing them over to authorities who are to exercise jurisdiction in accordance with the provisions of this article.
While Article V(6) of the VFA allows for the United States to request for custody over any US personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction, the Philippines may opt not to refuse such a request. This is clear from the Senate deliberations on the VFA and the text of the VFA itself.
The official position of the Philippine government as contained in the Department of Justice (DOJ) Opinion No. 094 dated August 10, 1998 where former Secretary Serafin Cueves stated that in extraordinary cases or cases of particular importance, the Philippines may deny the US request for custody and even demand to retain custody of the US offender.
Centerlaw Chair Harry Roque states, “We demand that the Philippine government immediately take custody of Pemberton. This does not only concern justice for Jennifer Laude’s family now. It is justice for every Filipino now as well. The government must prove that is will not cower to the demands of the Americans and fully assert the rights of the Filipino people.”
Roque added that, “ DOJ Undersecretary Jose F. Justiniano should stay away from this case for he has a clear conflict of interest being part of the legal defense team of US soldier Lance Corporal Daniel Smith in the People of the Philippines versus Smith rape case”.