Access to US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton

This letter was sent by the Laude family, thru their counsel, to the AFP today.
References: Professor Harry L. Roque 09175398096,
Atty. Romel R. Bagares 09328798422 or Atty. Ethel C. Avisado 09177055431

27 October 2014

Gen. Gregorio Pio P. Catapang, Jr.
Chief of Staff
Armed Forces of the Philippines
Office of the Chief of Staff
Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo
Quezon City

Dear. Gen. Catapang:

On behalf of the family and loved ones of the late Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, we respectfully write your good office to inform you of their request that they be given access to US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton who is in custody at the MDB-SEB facility inside Camp Aguinaldo.

As you know, other than reports in news media that PFC Pemberton has indeed been moved to the said facility, Jennifer’s family does not have any clear proof that he is in fact now being held at the MDB-SEB facility or that the person reported to have been placed in custody there is in fact the same PFC Pemberton who stands accused of killing the victim.

Under the applicable principles of international human rights law, they are entitled to due recognition of victimhood and effective participation in the search for legal remedies to the injury they suffered as a result of the loss of their kin and loved one; applicable principles of international human rights law have considered this due recognition, by way of satisfaction, as embracing a host of entitlements accorded to victims of human rights violations, including access to the status and disposition of the case in question, as well as to the State’s obligation to treat the victims and their family and loved ones with humanity and respect for their dignity.

We look forward to your immediate favorable response to our request. You may reach us through our stated contact details in this letter.

Respectfully yours,

Atty. Romel Regalado Bagares

Atty. Ethel C. Avisado

Departure Statement of Marc Sueselbeck

The Philippine Department of Justice

The Armed Forces of the Philippines

The Bureau of Immigration & Deportation

The Embassy of Germany in the Philippines

Dear Sir and Madam:

I extend my sincere apology for the incident that happened at Camp Aguinaldo on 22 October 2014. I regret that my action appeared as if I was disrespecting Philippine authorities, especially the Armed Forces of the Philippines. That was not my intention.

Please permit me to explain the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the event.

Earlier in the morning of that day, I attended the public hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs that is looking into the brutal killing of my fiancé, Jennifer Laude, by primary suspect US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton. Foreign Affairs officials reported to the committee that the suspect is in “shared custody” with the American government but I, as well as the family members of Jennifer, as well as my lawyers, found it curious that not one among the officials could confirm, based on eyewitness knowledge, that the suspect is indeed in custody at Camp Aguinaldo.

We have lost a loved one and we felt, to that moment, that we have not received any answer to all the questions that we have consistently raised in all the fora that we could reach.  We went to Camp Aguinaldo, just to ask questions. Not one Philippine soldier could confirm to us that they have seen Pemberton. The circumstances changed when Marilou Laude, Jennifer’s sister, climbed over the fence that surrounds the area where the suspect was allegedly being held. While Philippine soldiers tried to stop her from getting nearer the detention area, American personnel laughed at her efforts.

I have been taught one thing in life very early: never let a friend or family hang alone in a bad situation. Better take the hit as two persons together, rather than leave her alone, especially if the person is a woman. I already travelled 10,000 km to stand with the family through the grief, how then could I let Marilou take the insults and the risk alone? Seeing her standing there in the compound, being pushed backwards while on the other side of another fence American soldiers were laughing made me feel so insulted. This is why in a split-second, I myself crossed over the fence. In hindsight, I admit it was a mistake and I hope you understand that what inspired it was the frustration, extremely extraordinary mental pressure we all were in at that point and fear for Marilou’s sake, aggravated by the insulting manner extended us by the Americans.

I understand I was perceived by Philippine military officials as having pushed a soldier in a violent manner. It certainly was not an assault. I could not immediately stop my forward movement but video footage from any of the media covering that event can prove that I never aggressively attacked any soldier. I merely wanted to reach Marilou, make sure she was safe, and join her in asking questions. I believe that if I were truly aggressive and posed a true threat, the soldiers would not have hesitated to forcefully stop me. I heard the soldiers say that we “could get arrested for being on that ground.” I was able to reach Marilou and we left the area together.

I wish to stress that before we left, I personally apologized to all the members of the military present, including the camp commander and the soldier I inadvertently pushed. They, as well as video footage from the media could prove I apologized even then. The Philippine soldiers were all very professional and quite efficient at de-escalating the situation. I respect them for this.

I want to reiterate that subsequent events following the Senate public hearing prove that our concerns were not wrong. There was NO joint custody of the suspect; no Philippine official had even seen Pemberton at that time.

I was very distraught to know that the NCIS wanted an autopsy just a few hours before the funeral, such that Jennifer couldn’t be cremated as planned. This came nearly a week after the first autopsy was made. The suspect was never seen by Philippine investigators and they have not directly taken his DNA sample; no one has determined if he had scratch marks, fight injuries, and DNA traces of the victim on his clothes and body. I have concerns if the trial will truly give justice to Jennifer.

With this statement, I hope we could shift the discussion away from efforts to focus on my and Marilou’s alleged lack of respect to Philippine authorities. The issue is the brutal, senseless and most degrading murder of Jennifer Laude.

If you must accuse us of lack of respect, consider that no American official came to personally or officially condole with us; no flowers, no letters of sympathy. Who is not respecting whom?

One last word: I want to say clearly: it was never my intention to insult, offend, assault or misbehave towards Philippine authorities or citizens. How insane would that be, regarding we are on the same side?

I have an appeal to Philippine authorities. I lost my future wife Jennifer in the worst imaginable way. I hope you will allow me to grieve, return and visit her grave in the future. I am not a threat to your country or your citizens. I have no negative records in Germany or elsewhere.

Ich liebe dich, Jennifer, and I hope we will see each other again, asawa ko.

Marc Sueselbeck Departure Tonight (Request for Coverage)

Ref: Atty H. Harry L. Roque, Jr.


Marc Sueselbeck, the German fiancee of Jennifer Laude, will depart from the Philippines as planned today at  630 pm on board Malaysian Airlines from Terminal 1 of the NAIA.

He will issue a statement no later than 3 this afternoon. He will also face the media outside the entrance of NAIA Terminal 1 at 430PM


UP Law Center’s Institute of International Legal Studies (UP IILS)
For inquiries and confirmation of attendance, please call 929-3654 or 920-5514 loc. 207.




The U.P. Law Center’s Institute of International Legal Studies (UP IILS) will conduct a seminar on International Law for Media Practitioners on Tuesday, October 28, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the 4th Floor, Penthouse, Bocobo Hall, U.P. Law Center, Diliman, Quezon City.


The proposed seminar is composed of a series of talks on international law for journalists and media practitioners in the Philippines.  The seminar topics seeks to arm journalists and media practitioners covering international stories with essential international Law concepts and nomenclature, and to acquaint them with the most important and relevant developments in international law that deserve their focus and attention.  Invited lecturers are noted international law experts.


Lecture topics include An Introduction and Overview to the International Legal System by Dean Merlin M. Magallona; Reporting on the West Philippine Sea: Key Concepts by Dr. Raul C. Pangalangan; The Implications of the UNCLOS to Philippine Territorial Claims and National Security by Prof. H. Harry L. Roque; Visiting Forces Agreement and Other Related Agreement with the United States of America also by Prof. H. Harry L. Roque; An Introduction to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court by Atty. Celeste Ruth L. Cembrano-Mallari; An Introduction to the World Trade Organization and the ASEAN Economic Integration: Focus on Thrusts and Commitments by DFA Executive Director Jose Victor V. Chan-Gonzaga; and The Most Common Errors Committed by Journalists in Reporting Stories with an International Law Aspect by Atty. Romel R. Bagares.


The seminar is free and open to representatives from the media, concerned government agencies, the academe, and other relevant institutions from the private sector.


For inquiries and confirmation of attendance, please call 929-3654 or 920-5514 loc. 207.


Please click here for the Media Practitioners Programme (Final)-Oct.28 (3)-2

On Laude: The issue is accountability

The issue that we have been trying to address with the Jennifer Laude case is one of accountability. Will a US Marine, normally exempt from jurisdiction of the Philippines, be sent to Muntinlupa in case he is proven guilty of murder?

If we go by the Daniel Smith incident, the answer would be no. Smith, despite having been found guilty by a trial court, was absolved after the victim issued an affidavit of recantation. Nicole, Smith’s victim, is now residing in the United States. This means that outside of a possible monetary settlement, it was ultimately the US government that offered the visa in exchange for the recantation.

What is the lesson learned from the Daniel Smith incident? That the US government will simply not surrender its soldiers to any foreign government no matter what crime they may have committed.

Much of course has been said about the fact that the constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement has been upheld twice by the Philippine Supreme Court, but always with strong dissent from the acknowledged heavyweights in the Court.  In both instances, our Supreme Court upheld its validity because it is not for them to decide the domestic requirements in order that the VFA should have the force and effect of law in the United States. That, according to our Supreme Court, is not its concern. In so doing, they brushed away the rationale for the constitutional requirement that the presence of foreign troops, facilities and bases in the country should only be pursuant to a treaty duly recognized by the other contracting party as such.

What is this rationale?

Under International Law, the acts of foreign troops in a foreign jurisdiction are absolutely immune from local jurisdiction. The latest case in this regard is that of Germany v. Italy. There, an Italian made to work against his will in a German munitions factory during World War II sued Germany before Italian courts for damages arising from his forced labor. The Italian courts granted him damages and proceeded to execute against the Goethe Institute, the German Cultural Office. Germany filed suit in the International Court of Justice. The Court ruled in favor of Germany and ruled that acts committed by German troops during World War II are absolutely immune from Italian domestic jurisdiction. It also ruled that diplomatic assets of the Goethe are also immune from execution.

This is the reason why the Constitution requires that presence of foreign troops and bases here should only be pursuant to a treaty. This is the only way around the absolute immunity of foreign troops in our country: if the US agrees to the exercise of local jurisdiction. Theoretically, the VFA is evidence that the US government has agreed that ordinary crimes committed by its troops while in pursuit of the VFA will be subject to the primary jurisdiction of the Philippines. This is to ensure that the US cannot claim immunity for common crimes committed by its troops.

The infirmity of the VFA hence in not having been concurred in by the US Senate is that this waiver of immunity does not have the force and effect of law in the US. This is because their legislative branch of their government, through the US Senate, did not give its concurrence to the agreement.

This in turn is why the Laude family now doubt if they can hold PFC Joseph Scott Pemberton criminally liable for murder. As of now, he is still in the custody of the US and hence, beyond the reach of Philippine jurisdiction. This has very practical ramifications: without custody over Pemberton, the Philippine National Police has not been able to subject him to custodial interrogation in connection with their investigation of the murder. In fact, because he has not been made available to Philippine authorities, we do not even have the basics of physical evidence from Pemberton such as thumb prints and buccal samples for DNA. Worse, since he was never in our custody, we have not had the opportunity to conduct a physical examination of his body to see if there is any physical evidence that Jennifer attempted to defend herself when she was attacked.

But ultimately, it was the Nicole precedent that has disparaged the family. Remember that Smith was found guilty but got away as a result of a compromise, the juiciest part of which were the US visas for Nicole and her family provided by the United States government.

This was the frame of mind of the Laude family and Jennifer’s fiance, Marc, when we descended on Camp Aguinaldo last Wednesday. As a lawyer, I deemed that the family has the right to ensure that Pemberton was indeed in Aguinaldo and the right to ask him basic questions such as why he murdered their loved one. This forms part of their right to satisfaction under human rights law. The fact that the sister Malou and Marc climbed over the fence came as a complete surprise. In reality, Malou is on the verge of losing hope, what with the entire machinery of the Philippine government, with the exception of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, espousing the alleged rights of Pemberton and justifying the existence of the VFA. Marc, on the other hand, followed Malou after he was enraged to have seen the US Marines guarding the premises laughing at Malou and the family. Any other reasonable person would have felt the same rage. What is unacceptable is the kind of rage expressed by Pemberton that led to the murder of Jennifer.

Jennifer will be laid to rest today. There will be a mass and neurological service at 2 pm at Columban Church in West Pinlac, Olongapo City. Her remains will then be laid to rest in Heritage Memorial Park.

All Filipinos, including members of the AFP, should condole with the Laude family. For unless the VFA is abrogated, we could be its next victims.


This post first appeared in on October 24, 2014.

Statement on the Camp Aguinaldo MDB-SEB facility incident (Laude vs Pemberton)

Atty. Harry L. Roque 09175398096
Atty. Romel Regalado Bagares 09328798422
Army Lieutenant-Colonel Harold Cabunoc, chief of Public Affairs Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is mistaken that our client, Marc Sueselbeck, fiancé of murder victim Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, had violated Presidential Decree no. 1227, or the law punishing unlawful entry into any military base in the Philippines.
That law applies to a person “who, without express or implied permission or authority of the base commander or his duly authorized representatives, shall re-enter or is found within any military base after having been removed there from and ordered not to re-enter by the base commander or his duly authorized representative.”
In Mr. Suselbeck’s case, he, along with members of the Laude family, was allowed into the premises of Camp Aguinaldo, where the MDB-SEB facility — the detention area for PFC Pemberton — is located. Subsequently, he and Marilou Laude, a sister of the murder victim, entered the premises of the MDB-SEB in an angry bid to confront PFC Pemberton.
But PD 1227 applies only to a person who, having been removed from a Philippine military facility re-enters it or is found there yet again without proper permission from the base commander.
We do not wish to belabor this point any further, as the Laude family’s focus is on tomorrow’s funeral for their loved one.
We wish to inform everyone that a necrological service for Jennifer is scheduled tomorrow at 2 pm at the Columban Church in West Pinlac, Olongapo City. Afterwards, Jennifer’s remains will be laid to rest following a 3-kilometer march at the Heritage Memorial Park.
All Filipinos who love to see justice done in Jennifer’s case are welcome.

However, should Philippine authorities, at the behest of their American counterparts, charge and jail Mr. Sueselbeck because of what happened, certainly, the irony will not be lost on the Filipino people: here is a person seeking justice for someone he loves being placed behind bars while the very person accused of the murder remains outside the pale of Philippine law, and coddled by a government subservient to its foreign masters.
They should just as well charge and jail Jennifer’s sister Marilou, the complainant in the murder proceedings against PFC Pemberton, since she as well scaled the perimeter fence of the facility in search of justice for her murdered brother.
Our client Mr. Sueselbeck – while he regrets having been overtaken by emotion when he saw the US marines there mocking Ms. Laude – is ready to face the consequences of what he did.
Atty. Harry Roque, our lead counsel, beseeches “the understanding of everyone. Our clients are losing hope that justice will be served at all in the death of their loved one. Surely the armed forces understand their predicament.”
When we talked to Mr. Sueselbeck about this, he was very apologetic and told us he “just blanked out” and did not know the strength that suddenly seized him and propelled him to do what he did. He was overcome with anger when he saw US marines posted there laughing at Ms. Laude’s efforts to get inside the premises of the facility.
He wishes to apologize to the Filipino marine guarding the outer reaches of the facility he unintentionally ran against.

Laude family asks Olongapo Prosecutor to subject Pemberton to DNA and fingerprint tests

Centerlaw release
Reference: Professor Harry L. Roque, Jr. 09175398096

Please see attached Omnibus Motion we filed yesterday with the Office of the Prosecutor in Olongapo City, asking that fingerprints and DNA test samples be taken from PFC Pemberton.

Click here for a copy of the Omnibus Motion of Marilou S. Laude vs. Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton