Philippines: US marine charged with murder ‘unaware’ victim was trans
A US marine formally charged with murder was initially “unaware” she was trans, a witness has told the Senate.
It comes after 26-year-old Jennifer Laude Sueselbeck was found strangled on this month, naked with her head in the toilet.
US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton – who was one of hundreds of US marines in the area for a training exercise – was formally charged last week of the woman’s murder.
According to The Manila Times, the witness – who goes by the alias Barbie – says she and Laude were having iced tea inside the Ambyanz Disco bar when they saw Pemberton and a group of other marines enter the establishment.
Barbie said Pemberton was friendly but he appeared tipsy.
“Pemberton thought that we were real women,” she added.
She had replied to a query by Dindi Tan, a member of the Association of Transgenders of the Philippines (ATP), who inquired into the circumstances around the death of Laude.
Barbie said she accompanied both Laude and Pemberton when leaving the bar to go to Celzone lodge.
At the lodge, she joined the two inside Room 1 for a few minutes before leaving to meet an acquaintance in another room.
After 30 minutes, Barbie said the cashier of the lodge informed her that Laude was found unconscious.
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The cashier, Elias Galamos, also attended the Senate inquiry. He said he saw Pemberton walk out of the room and leave the lodge less than an hour after they checked in.
He said Pemberton left the door open, prompting him to check on the remaining guest. He left, he said, when he saw the room was occupied.
However, after investigating a second time hearing nothing for 30 minutes, it was there he found Laude’s body in the bathroom.
Politicians in the Philippines are pushing for a tougher anti-discrimination law following the incident, which has also stirred anti-US sentiment.
Senator Bam Aquino said: “We should impose heavier penalties so that these discriminatory and inhumane acts will be eradicated.”
He has pushed for a new bill entitled the Anti-Discrimination Act of 2014 which seeks to prohibit and penalise discrimination of any form, citing a rising number of hate crimes against LGBT people has risen in the past years.