Laude kin: Replace state prosecutor in Pemberton trial
MANILA, Philippines – The family of slain transgender woman Jennifer Laude on Monday, March 23, asked the justice department to designate a new public prosecutor in the murder trial against United States Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton.
In a two-page letter personally submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) by Laude's mother Julita and sister Marilou, they said Olongapo City Prosecutor Emelie Fe delos Santos was uncooperative with their private lawyers.
The family also rejected an alleged P21-million plea deal offer allegedly favored by Delos Santos.
Lawyer Harry Roque, who represents the family, said Delos Santos barred him from attending a case conference last March 18 and pushed for the plea deal.
He explained that "she (Delos Santos) would allow Pemberton to plead guilty to the lesser offense of homicide but the civil aspect of the case will proceed" as part of the alleged deal.
The Laude camp also showed a letter attesting to the P21-million offer allegedly from the US Marine Corps.
Laude's mother Julita, however, snubbed the offer. She said even $1 million "would not be enough," as they want to see the man who they believe murdered Jennifer go to jail. (READ: Laude family: 'We just want to see the killer go to jail')
"What we are fighting for is murder, not to downgrade the case. What they did to my child was gruesome. Just because we are poor doesn’t mean we can’t fight for justice," she said.
Earlier medical findings said Laude's death was caused by asphyxiation due to drowning and strangulation.
Her lifeless body was slumped in a Olongapo hotel room's toilet minutes after witnesses saw her with Pemberton.
Her controversial slay reignited calls to junk a military deal allowing US military drills on Philippine soil, one of which brought Pemberton in the country.
Discussions surrounding the case also shed light on deep-seated prejudices against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community in the predominantly Catholic nation of 100 million.
Civil aspect of the case
Over in Olongapo during the first day of the murder trial also on Monday, Delos Santos fell short of confirming the P21-million offer for a bargaining agreement.
"Whether there is a plea bargaining or not, we are preparing ourselves for the case," she said.
She explained that her team from the Olongapo prosecutors' office did not let Roque's team join the March 18 meet "because whatever they hear during the case conference, they may divulge our strategy."
She said it is not a matter of trust, but of controlling and supervising the criminal proceedings. She said the task at hand is winning the case for the People of the Philippines, not just for the Laude family.
Delos Santos added that Roque can only represent the Laude family as private prosecutor to determine how much the defense should pay the Laude family for the damages or the civil aspect of the case.
She explained that even the Laude kin can only stand witness for the civil aspect of the case, since they were not there at the scene when the crime was committed.
"Roque cannot accept the fact" of "what is embodied in the rules [of court]," she said.
While saying she respects Roque's move to seek the intervention of the DOJ in Manila, she branded this decision as a desire to "penetrate" the public prosecutor’s team.
She said she will abide by whatever decision the DOJ makes.
Roque for his part said private prosecutors must not be dismissed even if state lawyers prosecute the criminal aspect of the case. – with reports from Buena Bernal and Randy Datu/Rappler.com