Bureau of Corrections signs Pemberton release order

U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton | Photo from the Bureau of Corrections

THE Phiippine Bureau of Corrections (BOC) on Thursday, September 10, approved U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton’s release order from detention.
The order was signed by BuCor chief Gerald Bantag.

After Pemberton is released, he will be transferred to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for deportation.

“Surrender can happen today if the BI is ready. It can also happen tomorrow. There’s no pressure on us. We are treating it as a regular release,” said BuCor spokesperson Gabriel Chaglag.

On Wednesday, September 9, the BI announced that Pemberton will be deported out of the country after his release from detention.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that”the date of Pemberton’s actual exit from the country depends on his flight arrangements, considering that he is a military personnel of the U.S.”

Pemberton was granted an absolute pardon by President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, September 7.

Pemberton was convicted of homicide on December 1, 2015 for killing transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude in 2014. He was sentenced to six to 10 years imprisonment.

Duterte said that it was unfair to keep Pemberton detained, pointing out that it was not Pemberton’s fault that his good conduct time allowance (GCTA) was not recorded.

“You have not treated Pemberton fairly. So, i-release ko. Pardon. Eh ang pardon, walang mga question ‘yan (So, I’ll release him. Pardon. There are no questions there),” the president said during his televised public address on Monday.

He added, “It is not the fault of Pemberton na hindi na na-compute because we should allow him, the good character presumption kasi wala namang nagreport na Marines na nagsabi na nagwawala siya (It is not the fault of Pemberton that his good conduct was not computed because we should allow him, the good character presumption of good character since the Marines did not report anything about him acting out).”

The Olongapo City Regional Trial Court on Sept. 1 ordered Pemberton’s release, saying that the convicted American serviceman has completed the minimum of his sentence after serving a total of 2,142 days or over five years and eight months in prison as well as accumulating GCTA of 1,548 days or more than four years.

The order was signed by Presiding Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde. However, Pemberton’s release was put on hold by the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) following the motion for reconsideration filed by Laude’s family.

Duterte said he informed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra about his decision before announcing it.

“So sabi ko kay Justice Secretary, Medialdea, pinatawag ko sila kanina, sabi ko it’s my decision to pardon. Correct me if I’m wrong but ito ang tingin ko sa kaso (So I told Justice Secretary, Medialdea, I called them over and said it’s my decision to pardon. Correct me if I’m wrong but this is my opinion about the case). We have not treated Pemberton fairly,” he said.

Duterte also clarified that he isn’t taking any sides.

“I am not favoring anybody — neither Pemberton, nor the family [of Laude],” he stressed.

On his own volition

Guevarra, meanwhile, maintained that Duterte’s decision to grant absolute pardon to Pemberton was his ow.

“It appeared to me that it was upon his own volition,” he told ANC. “He must have been following this issue and then on his own, decided to grant the pardon to end it all.”

The justice secretary also noted that Duterte didn’t take the usual procedure in handing out his clemency, but assured his move was not illegal.

The usual procedure is for a convict to submit an application for pardon or parole to the Board of pardons and Parole. After evaluating, it will submit its findings to the DOJ, which will then endorse the recommendation to the President if the documents are fulfilled.

“Nothing prevents the president from directly exercising his constitutional power to grant executive clemency at any time, because it is a personal act of grace,” said Guevarra.

Pardoned for national interest

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, meanwhile, said the president’s decision might have been grounded on national interest.

“Sa tingin ko naman, itong desisyon nga ni rresidente — ito ay personal na opinyon ko dahil tinanong mo ang aking personal na opinyon — ang pagbibigay ng pardon kay Pemberton ay kabahagi ng pagnanais ni rresidente na kapag mayroon na ngang vaccine na na-develop kung sa America man ay makikinabang din ang Pilipinas (I think the rresident’s decision — this is just a personal opinion because you asked for my personal opinion —pardoning Pemberton is part of the president’s desire to get a vaccine from America if they develop one), he said Thursday.

Roque, who once served as the private legal counsel for the Laude family, admitted that he doesn’t have an issue with Pemberton’s release if it meant a solution to the country’s health crisis.

“At sa akin po, bagamat tayo ay tumayong abogado ng pamilyang Laude, eh kung ang ibig sabihin naman niyan ay lahat ng Pilipino ay magkakaroon ng vaccine kung Amerikano ang maka-develop, wala akong problema dyan (To me, even if I were the Laude family’s former lawyer, if it means all Filipinos will have access to the vaccine that Americans would develop, I don’t have a problem with that),” he said.

The spokesperson also insisted that Laude was not denied justice since Pemberton was convcited and had to pay the Laude family P4.3 million in civil liabilities
“Nakamit po ang katarungan. Wala po tayong ibinayad kahit ano (We obtained justice. We didn’t have to pay for anything to get it),” he said.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected]

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