A U.S. Marine has been charged with murder in the killing of a Filipino transgender woman found strangled in a local hotel room last weekend.
A senior Philippine official said Wednesday that the Philippine government wants to take custody of the Marine, who has been identified as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, and warned that the case could damage the military relationship between the two allies, according to MSN news.
Under a defense agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines, the Philippines can demand custody of a service member who has been involved in a crime. The joint defense pact has stoked tension between the two countries in the past, and the question of the U.S. Marine’s custody in this case may renew those tensions.
Pemberton is currently being held on the USS Peleliu warship in Subic Bay. The marines had been in the Philippines for an annual joint military exercise. All military personnel “still actively involved with the investigation” remain on board the ship, according to a press statement from the U.S. Marine Corps.
Three other marines who are considered possible witnesses are also being held, according to previous news reports. The other four ships previously held at port in Subic Bay during the investigation have been cleared to depart, the Marine Corps announced on Wednesday.
The killing has also ignited emotions in the transgender community in the Philippines, who are calling the death of Jennifer Laude, who was found dead with her head in a toilet bowl, a hate crime. An autopsy report in the case has shown the cause of death as “asphyxia by drowning.”
“We will not accept anything less than justice,” the victim’s sister Marilou Laude said to CNN.