Marine to go on trial for killing Filipino, but charge unclear
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[October 27, 2014]
MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines
will put a U.S. Marine on trial for killing a transgender Filipino
outside a former U.S. Navy base but prosecutors have yet to decide
whether to charge him with murder or the lesser crime of homicide.
Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton failed to answer a
murder complaint filed by police on Monday, the deadline set by
prosecutors, leaving it to the prosecution to determine what charge
Pemberton skipped the prosecutor's preliminary investigation in
Olongapo City, north of Manila, but his lawyer, Rowena
Garcia-Flores, said that any planned murder charge should be reduced
to homicide, or killing without intent.
"Do not teach us what to do," Olongapo chief prosecutor Emelie Fe
delos Santos told Pemberton's lawyer, a conversation carried live on
TV. "We will base our resolution on the evidence that we've
gathered. We should respect the process."
Delos Santos said prosecutors would inspect the crime scene on
November 5 before deciding whether a murder or homicide charge be
A transgender Filipino was found dead on Oct. 11 inside a hotel
toilet in Olongapo City. Pemberton was named a suspect. He is
detained at a U.S. facility at the main Philippine army base in
The crime has added to pressure on the government of President
Benigno Aquino to renegotiate the U.S.-Philippine Visiting Forces
Agreement (VFA), testing the two allies' security relations as they
face growing tensions in the South China Sea.
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"The VFA allows the U.S. military to act in wanton disregard for
Philippine sovereignty ... and violates the human rights and dignity
of the Filipino people," said Congressman Walden Bello of Akbayan
Party, an ally of the president.
Bello on Monday filed a joint resolution in the lower house of
Congress seeking to terminate the treaty because it "has not served
the interests of the Philippines".
(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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