Holiday delays Philippine rape investigation
Five Okinawa-based Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit remained in the Philippines Friday in connection with the alleged rape of a 22-year-old Philippine woman, officials said.
“They’re being held in the Philippines under the responsibility of the U.S. Embassy,” said embassy spokesman Matthew Lussenhop. “The investigation is continuing and no formal charges have been made.”
Because Friday was a public holiday in the Philippines, the investigation had not moved forward, he said.
A rape complaint against six Marines was filed with a state prosecutor alleging the crime occurred late Tuesday at Subic Bay Freeport, a sprawling industrial and recreation hub northwest of Manila. Only five Marines were identified, officials said.
The alleged victim told investigators she met the Marines in a disco at the Freeport, where they had drinks. The Marines later took her to their rented van, where she allegedly was assaulted, said Jose Calimlim, Freeport deputy administrator.
After the complaint was filed, Philippine authorities briefly delayed the departure of the USS Essex to search for the Marines. The ship, based at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, left without the five Marines, Calimlim said.
The Marines will have legal representation under the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group, the Defense Department body at the embassy responsible for military affairs. Investigators from the JUSMAG Naval Criminal Investigative Service also will question them.
The Philippine government immediately expressed concern about the alleged crime, which was condemned by left-wing militants opposed to the presence of U.S. troops for counterterrorism training with Philippine soldiers.
On Friday, about 30 activists marched through Manila with placards reading “U.S. troops out now!”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.