AN opposition lawmaker on Thursday filed a resolution calling on the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of National Defense and the Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces Agreement to allow congressmen to inspect the detention facilities of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton who was convicted of killing transgender woman Jennifer Laude.
In filing House Resolution 353, Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque stressed the need for government agencies to assist Congress “for the purposes of ascertaining whether Pemberton is in fact detained in the Philippines-United States Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board facility inside Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.”
“There is no telling whether Mr. Pemberton is in fact detained there, as Philippine authorities have steadfastly refused any visit by outside parties—not even the victim’s family and counsel,” Roque said.
“This is an unacceptable denial of Philippine sovereignty within its own territory,” he added.
Pemberton is serving a maximum of 10 years imprisonment after he was found guilty of homicide for the death of Laude. He was originally sentenced to six up to 12 years in prison.
Roque served as counsel for the Laude family during the murder trial.
In his resolution, Roque said the decision of the DFA, DND, and the PCVFA to allow Pemberton to serve his sentence in MDB-SEB facility ran “counter to national interest” and “kowtows to the American position.”
He said that while Article V(6) of the VFA allows for the United States to request for custody over any US personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction, the Philippines may opt not to refuse such a request in “extraordinary cases” such as murder.
“This was the interpretation of no less than our Senate when it concurred with the Visiting Forces Agreement,” he said.
“This interpretation is also in accord with Department of Justice Opinion No. 094 dated August 10, 1998 where former Secretary Serafin Cuevas, himself a retired Supreme Court Justice, stated that in extraordinary cases or cases of particular importance, the Philippines may deny the US request for custody and even demand to retain custody of the US offender,” he added.
Roque’s resolution also seeks to determine whether policy prerogatives still necessitate the Philippines’ adherence to the VFA under its current form.
Roque said the stance of the DFA, the DND and the VFA Commission on the question of the detention facility for Pemberton is “contrary to President Rodrigo Duterte’s pursuit of an independent foreign policy.”
Duterte earlier declared that he intends to pursue an independent foreign policy, saying under his leadership, the Philippines “will observe and must insist on the time honored principles of sovereignty, sovereign equality, non-interference, and a commitment to peaceful settlement of disputes.”
During the course of the Pemberton trial, the Laude case stirred debate over the renewed presence of American troops on Philippine soil two decades after the Philippine Senate voted against the RP-US Bases Treaty in 1991.