Laude camp to city prosecutor: Inhibit from case
MANILA, Philippines – The camp of slain transgender woman Jennifer Laude has asked the prosecutor handling the case to inhibit herself from the investigation because of her alleged bias and hostility against the Laude family's counsel.
On Tuesday, December 9, the victim's sister Marilou Laude, through her lawyers, filed a motion asking Olongapo City prosecutor Emilie delos Santos to recuse herself from the preliminary investigation on the murder complaint filed against US Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton.
In the motion, Laude said that throughout the course of the investigation, Delos Santos had "demonstrated actions and made pronouncements that – most deplorably – compromise and severely undermine the credibility and integrity of the proceedings."
The Laude camp cited instances where the city prosecutor allegedly showed open hostility against their lawyers and made statements that constituted prejudgment of the investigation.
They also hit Delos Santos' actions during the gathering of forensic evidence and her insistence that only she is allowed to make public statements on the case.
"All things considered, it is clear that the Honorable City Prosecutor has exercised her function in a despotic manner, thereby creating an atmosphere of hostility," the motion read.
In asking for Delos Santos' voluntary inhibition, the Laude camp also asked for a different prosecutor to be assigned to handle the case.
In their motion, the Laude camp said Delos Santos made statements that "exhibited hostility and bias" against their private counsels, in particular lawyer Harry Roque.
Laude said the prosecutor has "repeatedly disparaged the person and advocacies of Atty Roque" and alleged that the lawyer was using the case for "purposes [Delos Santos] does not agree with."
Laude said that during the hearing last November 28, Delos Santos publicly scolded the lead investigator on the case, SPO3 Tyrone D.P. Tecson, and used the incident to question Roque's motivations.
"She once again gave SPO3 Tecson a dressing down on the same topic, faulting the police officer for allegedly allowing himself to be used by Atty. Roque for an allegedly illegitimate purpose; this she made for all the parties present to see, including members of the press."
It added: "Indeed, shortly after the proceedings, she gave a press conference where she again attacked the professional and personal motivations of Atty. Roque, with her dressing down of SP03 Tecson as her jumping board to her discussion."
Delos Santos' statements against Roque were a "gross violation" of the Code of Professional Responsibility, the motion read.
During the hearing, Delos Santos had scolded Tecson for giving the Laude family copies of the photos taken at the crime scene.
The family released the photos after Pemberton's counsel moved to downgrade the charge against the US soldier from murder to homicide.
The release was "meant to drive home the point that the gruesome death of their loved one could not have been a mere case of homicide."
Laude added, the same photographs were also part of the evidence submitted to prove probable cause for murder against Pemberton.
"[City Prosecutor] De Los Santos may not realize it but in attempting to dictate to undersigned counsel what to do with the evidence, she is interfering with the legal strategy adopted by undersigned counsel at this state of the proceeding to protect the interests of the Private Complainant," the motion added.
The Laude camp also listed several other instances where Delos Santos allegedly acted harshly against the private prosecutors.
One such incident occurred immediately after Delos Santos ordered the gathering of latent fingerprints and buccal swabs from Pemberton for forensic examination.
Last month, the Laude camp asked for witness Mark Clarence Gelviro, also known as Barbie, to be present during the procedure to ensure that the suspect earlier identified by the witness and the person undergoing fingerprinting is "one and the same."
But Delos Santos allegedly berated Laude's counsel when they filed a motion for partial reconsideration.
According to Laude, Delos Santos said the motion was belatedly filed, and that it ran "counter to what the Americans [had] already agreed to."
"Undersigned counsel were never informed by [city prosecutor] De Los Santos of representations her office made with US authorities through the Department of Foreign Affairs, so that they could have properly addressed any concern regarding the conduct of the requested procedures," the motion read.
The Laude camp also protested Delos Santos' assurances before the public that the evidence gathered came from Pemberton himself.
"This despite the fact that she had never personally seen the American soldier at any point before, during or immediately after the crime happened," Laude said.
In their motion, the Laude camp also criticized Delos Santos' refusal to furnish them a copy of evidence submitted by the United States Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and her insistence that only she is allowed to make public statements on the case.
"The reaction of the Honorable City Prosecutor is clearly unbecoming for a prosecutor leading an investigation of a public offense which involves various issues affecting national interest," the Laude camp said. – Rappler.com