MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines on Friday issued a summons for an American serviceman, named as a suspect in the murder of a transgender Filipino he met in a bar outside the former U.S. navy base of Subic Bay, to appear at a hearing next week.
Prosecutors will determine if there is enough evidence to put U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton on trial at a court in Olongapo City for the murder of Jeffrey Laude, 26, who was found last Saturday in a hotel room.
Foreign ministry spokesman Charles Jose said foreign ministry officials and prosecutors went to the United States embassy to serve the summons on Pemberton and four other soldiers required as witnesses in the case.
The embassy will hand the subpoenas to the U.S. Marines stationed on the USS Peleliu, an amphibious assault ship docked in port at Subic Bay. They order the men to be at the prosecutor’s office on Monday.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs, together with the office of the city prosecutor of Olongapo City, today served the subpoena and complaint against Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton for the murder of Jeffrey Laude, also known as ‘Jennifer’,” Jose said in a statement.
In Washington, Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the U.S. military had “a great sense of gravity over what happened” and was cooperating closely with local law enforcement on the case.
The Philippine foreign ministry has asked U.S. embassy officials to hand the Marine to local authorities because the southeast Asian nation is worried about growing adverse domestic opinion over ties between the two oldest allies in the region.
The foreign ministry said the handling of the murder case could fuel opposition to a new 10-year military cooperation pact the two countries signed in April, which has been challenged in the Philippine Supreme Court.
The pact allows the U.S. military to store supplies at Philippine bases for operations related to maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
Under the Philippines’ status of forces agreement with the U.S. military, it can demand custody of an errant serviceman, to be held in a detention facility agreed by both sides, a foreign ministry official has said.
Some lawmakers in the Philippines have called for a public inquiry into the murder case and the country’s existing military pacts with the United States.
Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Clarence Fernandez