Condemn “double insult” of US custody of Pemberton inside AFP HQ — CPP

By CPP Information Bureau

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today condemned the US government for the “double insult” in refusing to surrender custody of the US serviceman who is the prime suspect in the brutal murder last October 12 of Jennifer Laude in Olangapo City. US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton was transferred yesterday from the USS Peleliu to a US military facility inside Camp Aguinaldo.

Pemberton is a crewman of the USS Peleliu which was has been docked at Subic Bay over the past several weeks. Witnesses point to him as the person with Laude less than an hour before her body was seen slumped on a motel room toilet bowl where she was apparently drowned. An autopsy conducted on Laude’s body reveals the brutality of her murder. Laude suffered bruises and abrasions, had broken collar bones and a broken larynx and contusions from the head to the buttocks.

Since October 12, the US government and military have maintained custody of Pemberton in line with the Visiting Forces Agreement which gives the US such prerogative.

“The continued US custody of Pemberton is a grave insult to Philippine sovereignty,” said the CPP. Yesterday, US ambassador Phillip Goldberg insisted that the US will retain custody of Pemberton throughout the trial and appeals process.

“The refusal to hand over custody of the prime suspect weakens the capability of the prosecutors from building a proper case for trial,” said the CPP. “Police investigators and prosecutors could not even independently acquire a sample of Pemberton’s fingerprint and saliva samples for DNA testing to compare it with those found in the crime scene.”

“The claim of the US and Aquino governments that the US-RP VFA is the same agreement the US has with other countries is a complete lie,” said the CPP. The CPP pointed out that the US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement requires the US to surrender custody of accused American servicement the moment they are indicted, as in the case of the three US soldiers who perpetrated the rape of a 12-year old Okinawan girl in 1995.

“Yes, the US promises cooperation, but such only underscores the fact that, without the right to take custody of the suspect Pemberton, Philippine criminal jurisdiction over the Laude case is greaty impaired,” said the CPP.

“What is doubly insulting is that the US, in maintaining custody, transferred Pemberton yesterday to a US facility inside the main headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) where not even the AFP chief of staff can check on him without seeking permission from US authorities,” added the CPP.

The CPP dismisses US claims of “cooperation” in transferring Pemberton, not to the US embassy, but to the Joint US Military Advisory Group (Jusmag) compound within Camp Aguinaldo. “The US is deceiving the Filipino people in saying that Pemberton’s transfer to Camp Aguinaldo is an assurance that he will be subject to Philippine criminal jurisdiction, when, in fact, Philippine police investigators are priorly denied the right to subject the suspect to an interview and other procedures.”

“The US decided against detaining Pemberton at the US embassy to prevent a repeat of the uproar that ensued when it detained US serviceman Lance Corporal Daniel Smith who was accused, tried and convicted for the 2005 Subic rape case. “The US government and its crisis managers calculate that Pemberton’s detention inside Camp Aguinaldo will placate the anger of the Filipino people over the VFA by making it appear that the suspect is under Philippine authority even when, in fact, he remains under US custody.”

“The legal reality is that Pemberton continues to be detained inside an exclusive territory of the US government. Worse, such territory is inside the main headquarters of the Philippine armed forces. Its perimeter is secured by an armed forces trained by and which professes dependence and fealty to the US military and government for its so-called modernization.”

“Thus, not only does such a transfer highlight the fact that the VFA encroaches on Philippines sovereignty, it underscores as well how the Philippine government is complicit in US violations of Philippine national freedom and integrity,” added the CPP.

“The CPP joins the Filipino people in denouncing Aquino for his devious defense of the VFA in saying that the abrogation of the agreement will not stop the perpetration of crimes by US servicemen in the future.”

“Aquino is misleading the people and drawing their attention away from the fact that with the VFA (and the EDCA), thousands upon thousands of US soldiers imbibed with the US’ arrogant sense of entitlement and US military machismo are allowed to descend on Philippine soil and trample on Philippine sovereignty with impunity,” added the CPP.