Philippines: Four witnesses to US marine charged with murder of trans woman leave country

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The four US witnesses to an American marine charged with the alleged murder of a transgender woman have now left the country, it has been reported.

26-year-old Jennifer Laude was found strangled on Saturday night, 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 on Wednesday of the woman’s murder.

The Philippines has since issued a subpoena to the US, calling the Marine and four military witnesses to a court hearing next week.

According to the Manila Times, the four witnesses – also believed to be US marines – have now departed from the country without informing Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said: “DFA was not informed by the US side that four witnesses were leaving the country. They are not required to do so.”

He said the information was gathered by the department from the US Embassy in Manila.

However, the investigation will proceed on Tuesday as “they have already satisfied the legal requirements.”

“Moreover, the US has given assurance that they will make available the witnesses at the trial,” he added.

He also warned that uncertainties over Pemberton’s appearance in the investigation will reflect on him unfavourably.

“He’s risking a decision that will be unfavorable to him. If the prosecutor recommends the filing of murder charges against him, that’s his problem.

“His legal adviser should advise him to appear.”

US Embassy spokeswoman Anna Richey said last week: “The United States will continue to assist in the investigation to help ensure justice is served.”

Politicians in the Philippines are pushing for a tougher anti-discrimination law following the incident, which has also stirred anti-US sentiment.