MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2 – 2:58 p.m.) A US Marine participating in a joint training exercise with the Philippine military has been detained onboard an American ship following the killing of a Filipino transgender in Olongapo City over the weekend, a report in the Marine Corps Times said.
The report said the unnamed Marine, from 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, “is being held on board the amphibious assault ship Peleliu while agents with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service piece together what happened Saturday night at the Celzone Lodge in Olongapo City.”
The report cited an internal Navy memo on the matter. It added that, “three other Marines from the same unit, described as potential witnesses, also have been detained aboard the ship, according to the memo, which was distributed to dozens of senior Navy officials, as well as NCIS and State Department personnel.” The Marines’ unit is participating in the PHIBLEX 15 exercises.
The Peleliu, on the other hand, is on a port call at Subic Bay until Tuesday, according to the Marine Corps Times. In a statement later on Monday, the US embassy in Manila confirmed that the US soldier “has been identified as a possible suspect in the ongoing investigation” as it offered “its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jeffrey Laude.”
“The United States will continue to fully cooperate with Philippine law enforcement authorities in every aspect of the investigation,” the embassy statement said.
Reacting to the news, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan immediately demanded that the Marine immediately be handed over to local authorities, who are also investigating the death of Jeffrey Laude, 26, and that the Philippine government “must assert national sovereignty and jurisdiction over the American soldier. A Filipino was killed. This merits the assertion of our laws, in the interest of justice,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said, adding that President Benigno Aquino III”should not junk national interest and justice just because he’s eager to implement” the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US, which allows increased American military presence in the country.
Gabriela party-list Representative Emmi de Jesus said in a statement that Philippine law should prevail in the investigation of the US serviceman and challenged President Benigno Aquino III to “insist that the suspect face a Philippine court and not allow the VFA to trample on our sovereignty.” Vencer Crisostomo demanded that the government stop the Peleliu from leaving and arrest the US serviceman.
Reports from the Olongapo-based organization Pagkakaisa ng Kababaihan (KAISA KA), said Laude, who used the name “Jennifer Laude,” had been picked up from the Ambyanz Disco Bar Saturday night and taken to the local lodge where he was found dead around 1 a.m. Sunday.
Both Reyes and De Jesus said the government should not allow the case of Laude to become a repeat of that of “Nicole,” the Filipina who accused US servicemen of raping her, also in Subic. Although one of them, Daniel Smith, was convicted and ordered detained at the Makati City jail by a court, he was spirited out of jail by Philippine authorities and handed over to the US embassy. Smith was eventually acquitted by the Court of Appeals when Nicole eventually filed a statement saying she was too drunk to recall if she had, indeed, been raped, which was widely reported as a retraction.