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Monday, October 27, 2014

We Went Beyond Our Duty Said By Goldberg

Ambassador Philip Goldberg said that the United States has taken unusual steps in allowing Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton to be transferred to Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo although still under US custody.
“We went beyond our obligations under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) by reaching an agreement with the Philippines that allowed the suspect to be moved to a facility at Camp Aguinaldo,” Goldberg said during a roundtable discussion at the US embassy last Friday.
Pemberton, who was tagged as a suspect in the death of transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, was flown last Wednesday from the USS Peleliu to a Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) facility at Camp Aguinaldo where he is now detained in an air-conditioned container van.
“We need to always be conscious of the feelings here among people and that’s why… we took this step of allowing – within our custody under the VFA – a suspect to be moved to sovereign Philippine soil,” said the Ambassador.
“That’s an unusual step and one meant to build confidence that we understand the situation here, we’re sympathetic to the family, we’re sympathetic to the Filipino people. But we also have to observe the rule of law,” he added.
He said the detention of Pemberton in Camp Aguinaldo is aimed at assuring people that the suspect “will be here for the length of the hearings and possibly if it will come to a trial and to show that we are working cooperatively together but within the framework of the rule of law.” 

When asked if they are willing to hand over Pemberton to Philippine authorities and allow him to be put in Philippine jail if and when an arrest warrant is issued against the US marine, Goldberg again referred to the VFA.
“We’ll follow the VFA and the VFA gives custody to the US,” he stated. The VFA provides that Philippine courts will have jurisdiction over erring US troops, but custody will remain with the US.
He stressed though that the US will continue to cooperate with Philippine authorities in finding justice for the victim.
“We are going to cooperate under the VFA to make sure, if in the case… there is a suspect. But in a case such as one where a US service person is involved, the US retains custody and has obligations under the VFA to make sure that a person identified would then be present for all hearings… and the witnesses would as well,” according to Goldberg.
“Those are our obligations under the VFA and we intend to follow them just as we expect that all the provisions will be followed. And we have to understand that we have a legally constituted agreement that is part of the rule of law,” he added.
According to the Ambassador, they are also interested in justice for Laude and emphasized that the US is doing everything in pursuit of justice. He they have been as transparent as possible in terms of the cooperation given to Philippine authorities.
“I’ve mentioned a couple of times that this case may not have been solved as quickly or as effectively without our cooperation,” he said.
“Our work to date through the VFA has allowed us to identify a suspect, identify witnesses, to cooperate and collaborate with the Philippine National Police (PNP). And quite frankly I don’t know that that would have happened if it hadn’t been for our cooperation with investigators from the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS)
He went on to say that the US government also have obligation to protect Pemberton or any member of the US armed services.
“That’s the commitment we make to the American people and the American Congress to do those things as government representatives and as the US military. So  that’s the reason we do these things to make sure that all rights are protected, but also to ensure that justice is done,” said Goldberg.
As this developed, Armed forces of the Philippines  Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio P. Catapang Jr. will award a plaque of recognition to Army Technical Sergeant Mariano Pamittan who kept his cool despite being shoved and assaulted during the fence-scaling incident at the MDB-SEB facility.
Pamittan is one of the AFP personnel detailed to guard Pemberton.
Lt. Col. Harold M. Cabunoc, AFP public affairs office (PAO) chief, said Pamittan will be cited for his professionalism and restraint during the incident last Oct. 22., in which Laude’s fiancé, German national Marc Sueselbeck and one of the slain transgender’s sister, Marilou,, made an unauthorized entry.
After climbing the perimeter fence, Sueselbeck assaulted and shoved the soldier, said Cabunoc.
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