October 13, 2014 / 10:49 AM / 3 years ago

U.S. warships stay in Philippines amid transgender murder probe

MANILA (Reuters) - The commander of U.S. Pacific Command has stopped two of its warships from leaving the Philippines after a U.S. Marine was named as a suspect in the murder of a transgender Filipino he met in a bar, a Philippine official said on Monday.

Admiral Samuel Locklear had ordered the USS Peleliu and another warship to stay in the former U.S. base of Subic Bay until after the murder investigation is over, executive director of the Visiting Forces Agreement Commission, Eduardo Oban, said.

U.S. troops have been taking part in a 10-day military exercise with the Philippines.

A U.S. Marine was in the custody of American military officials aboard USS Peleliu in connection with the case, the U.S. Navy Times said.

A police report said the 26-year-old victim was found strangled on Saturday in a toilet of a hotel room in Olongapo City, the town outside Subic famous for its sleazy bars.

“A U.S. Marine has been identified as a possible suspect in the ongoing investigation,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. “The United States will continue to fully cooperate with Philippine law enforcement authorities in every aspect of the investigation.”

Oban said Locklear was in Manila for an annual security meeting. His order to stop the warships was relayed to Filipino officials by a military advisory group.

The United States and the Philippines in April signed a new 10-year security pact that allows for a larger U.S. military presence in the country as it struggles to raise its defence capabilities amid territorial disputes with China.

“We are committed to do our part to ensure that justice is served,” Philippine Foreign Ministry spokesman Charles Jose said after being informed about the crime.

In 2005, a U.S. Marine was accused of raping a Filipino woman in Subic Bay. He was convicted by a lower court but an appeals court reversed the ruling after the woman recanted her statement.

Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Nick Macfie

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