Philippine appellate court affirms conviction of US Marine

THE Court of Appeals has upheld the ruling of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court finding US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton guilty of homicide for the killing of transgender Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude in October 2014 and sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment. "Self-defense, like alibi, is a defense which can easily be concocted, as it is in this case", the ruling penned by Associate Justice Marlene Gonzales-Sison stated.

It added the trial court correctly ruled that Pemberton should be sentenced to suffer the indeterminate sentence of six years of prision correccional as minimum and 10 years of prision mayor as maximum in light of "two mitigating circumstances which effectively reduced the penalty prescribed by Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code (reclusion temporal) by one degree".

The CA has affirmed the award of P4.32 million to Laude's kin but increased the damages to be paid by Pemberton.

The American's lawyer Rowena Garcia-Flores said that Pemberton's camp would elevate the case to the Supreme Court. Pemberton argued in court that he dragged Laude to the toilet to revive her with water, but prosecutors said Pemberton drowned her to death.

The CA agreed with the trial court that Pemberton's detention at Camp Aguinaldo should be credited to his jail time.

Aggrieved, Pemberton then raised his argument to the appellate court.

The Marine avoided a murder conviction and was found guilty of the lesser charge of homicide, which did not require any "malicious intent". "Clearly, Pemberton intended the natural outcome of his wrongful act", the ruling held.

Pemberton, who was in the Philippines then as part of his regular military exercises, was the last person seen with Laude before she died.

The appellate court, however, revised the civil indemnity and moral damages set by the RTC at P50,000 to P75,000 each.

"To our mind, placing Laude's head inside a toilet shows that Pemberton never thought of Laude as a human being, but as a fecal matter due to his sexual orientation", the CA stressed.

It also affirmed the P155,250 actual damages as Laude's family was able to prove through actual receipts of damages representing autopsy, wake, and burial expenses.

Associate Justices Ramon Cruz and Henri Jean Paul Inting concurred with the ruling.

Under an agreement signed by the Philippine and USA governments, persons like Pemberton should be detained at a mutually agreed place of detention, in this case Camp Aguinaldo.

"The special treatment accorded to Pemberton since his conviction shows the disparity and injustice that agreements like the Visiting Forces Agreement and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement bestows upon the Filipino people", they said.