The burgeoning defense relationship between the Philippines and the US could be tested as local prosecutors appear ready to charge a US Marine in the Oct. 11 death of a transgender Filipino.
The incident, coming directly on the heels of a major US-Filipino amphibious exercise, embarrassed US authorities, including US Pacific Command chief Adm. Samuel Locklear who was in the Philippines to attend a major defense meeting and affirm the alliance between the two countries.
The body of Jeffrey Laude, 26, a transgender Filipino known as Jennifer, was found dead in an Olongapo hotel bathroom early Oct. 12 shortly after checking in with the suspect, Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton.
Pemberton was part of a Marine unit aboard the amphibious assault ship Peleliu, which had just taken part in the PHIBLEX 2014 amphibious exercise. Peleliu, along with other ships in the exercise, was in port at Subic Bay.
Police said the victim was found half-naked on the bathroom floor with more than a dozen bruises, cuts and bite marks. They said the victim had died from “asphyxia by drowning.” Lurid details of the crime, including photos of the body, circulated in the Filipino media and online.
The incident prompted numerous street protests in Manila and elsewhere. Protesters at the US Embassy and the Philippine Foreign Affairs Department demanded the US hand over the suspect so he could be detained in a Filipino prison.