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Far from tightening the noose around U.S. Marine Pfc Joseph Scott Pemberton, Philippine authorities only succeeded in showing an opening for the American serviceman to eventually walk free for the alleged murder of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in Olongapo City last Oct. 11. The PNP crime laboratory matter-of-factly announced last week that there
was no match between the DNA samples taken from Pemberton and the pieces of evidence, mostly a used condom with semen and fecal traces as well as fingerprints, recovered from the seamy hotel where Laude was killed. It was verily declaring that Pemberton was not at the scene of the crime when it happened. Ergo, the accused marine was not the murderer.
Bear in mind that nothing less than the stability and future of Philippine-U.S. relations ride on the outcome of this murder investigation. Think of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that it is capable of scuttling. This scenario is unacceptable to the Aquino administration, which would give its right arm for the unhampered implementation of EDCA so that the U.S. military is arm in arm with the Philippines as the latter faces up to the challenge of China’s growing aggression in the West Philippine Sea. The PH-U.S. ties went in tatters once before following the Nicole-Daniel Smith rape case in 2005 and it took quite some before the differences were patched up.
In the Smith rape case, it will be recalled that Nicole backtracked at the tail end of the trial and then signed a “receipt and release” document admitting that she received P100,000 from the Americans as settlement. Nicole ended up an American citizen, her immigration approved by the U.S. embassy. In effect, the U.S. went out of its way to manipulate the case in its citizen’s favor. Did the U.S. use its ascendancy to make the same sleight of hand possible that had the PNP issued that no-DNA-match finding?
The reports were that the buccal swab (a way to collect DNA from the cells on the inside of a person’s cheek) and fingerprints of Pemberton were conducted by either the American Naval Criminal Investigative Service or the PNP crime lab. No surprise there if it was done by the NCIS by itself. We take care of our own, you know. But it would more than raise eyebrows if the swabbing and comparison were performed by both the PNP and NCIS forensic experts. If so, it is no atomic science to conclude that our PNP boys did it in cahoots with the NCIS.
If conspiracy is involved, the PNP deliberately botched the investigation for a) deferring to the publicly expressed desire of higher-ups that the Laude killing is prevented from further rocking the EDCA boat, and b) possible monetary considerations (the Nicole payoff is instructive). While this seems incredibly smart, the other way, in which PNP did not play footsies with NCIS, is of course incredibly stupid.
Those who have closely monitored the case note that nearly two months elapsed after the DNA samples were submitted. It took that long to get Pemberton’s DNA samples for comparison with those found at the crime scene. Worse, it took another three weeks for the PNP crime lab to say that the results of the DNA testing showed that this were not a match to Pemberton’s DNA.
It will be recalled that neither the investigators nor the government prosecutors immediately took DNA samples from Pemberton, despite repeated demands from the lawyers of Laude’s relatives that this be done. Also, it will be recalled that Pemberton never showed up before Philippine authorities, not even during the first and second preliminary investigations. What this meant was that Pemberton did not undergo any DNA testing during that period. His DNA samples were said to have been submitted to the PNP crime lab. So who conducted the tests, the U.S. or local authorities?
Since the DNA doesn’t match as claimed by the PNP, it’s safe to say that Pemberton can escape conviction. On the prospect that the Laude killing may yet go down as an unsolved case, Olongapo City prosecutor Emilie de los Santos thinks that the two eyewitnesses cannot be sneezed at. But then again the prosecutor should have been told that the so-called eyewitnesses only attested to seeing Pemberton got in and out of the motel with the transgender. Not the actual killing.
The Department of Budget and Management has said that government under-spending was triggered by the Supreme Court’s move to stop the legislators’ pork barrel funds and the Executive’s fiscal stimulus called Disbursement Acceleration Program. As a result, GDP grew 5.8 percent in the first three quarters of the year, below the 6.5 to 7.5 percent target range for the entire 2014. Pulling down growth were said to be the contraction in government spending and slow agriculture growth as well as a slowdown in services.