MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government asked Washington on Tuesday to turn over custody of a U.S. Marine charged with the murder of a Filipino transgender woman in a looming irritant between the allies.
The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila sought custody of Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton after he was charged by Filipino prosecutors Monday in the October killing of Jennifer Laude in Olongapo city, northwest of Manila. A regional trial court in Olongapo issued a warrant Tuesday for Pemberton's arrest.
Laude, whose former name was Jeffrey, had apparently been strangled and drowned in a toilet bowl after Pemberton discovered that she was a transgender woman in a motel, where they had checked in after meeting in a disco bar, according to prosecutors.
The emotional case has reignited a debate over custody of U.S. military personnel accused of local crimes. Left-wing groups and a lawyer for Laude's family have demanded that Pemberton be turned over to Philippine authorities and locked up in an ordinary jail.
"The Filipino people should see Pemberton kissing the bars in a jail," lawyer Harry Roque said.
Foreign affairs department spokesman Charles Jose said the Philippines was expecting the "full cooperation of the U.S. government in ensuring that justice is secured" for Laude.
The U.S. government said it would continue to cooperate, citing Pemberton's transfer from an American warship to a Philippine military camp, where he is detained. But the 19-year-old anti-tank missileman from Bristol, Massachusetts, remains under U.S. custody as provided by the Visiting Forces Agreement signed by the allies.
Under the agreement, Washington has a right to retain custody of a suspect from the time a crime is allegedly committed until the completion of all judicial proceedings, the U.S. Embassy in Manila said.
Pemberton is currently in U.S. custody, but is being held in a Philippine military camp in a compromise between the longtime allies.