The Philippine Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) on Friday, September 11, turned over U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for deportation.
Pemberton will remain in the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group detention facility in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City while the BI implements its 2015 deportation order.
The turnover of custody means the convicted marine has received clearance from the court that there are no pending cases against him, according to BI acting spokesperson Melvin Mabulac.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is already processing Pemberton’s clearance, one of the requirements for the deportation process.
“At wala nang ibang hinihintay ang Bureau of Immigration bukod dito sa NBI clearance except ‘yung travel documents ni Mr Pemberton. That means ‘yung kanyang passport at ‘yung flight details na manggagaling naman sa U.S. Embassy (Aside from the NBI clearance, there is nothing else that the Bureau of Immigration is waiting for other than Pemberton’s travel documents. That means his passport and his flight details which would come from the U.S. embassy),” he said in an interview on DZMM Teleradyo.
Mabulac also said that once the documents have been completed, Pemberton will be brought to the airport for his flight schedule out of the country.
“We have to ensure na siya ay nakaalis (We have to ensure that he has left),” he said.
Pemberton was granted an absolute pardon by President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, September 7, drawing criticism from notable figures and groups across the country.
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 the marine’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 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.
Locsin: No exchange deal
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. on Friday clarified that there was no “exchange” in the absolute pardon granted by Duterte.
“There is no exchange. I clinched that purely on my charm with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. I insisted that it (vaccine procurement) be a private sector venture,” he said in a tweet.
“It is what it was: the president’s sense of fairness in a particular case. And it’s impeccable law and morals,” Locsin added.
His statement came after Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the president’s decision might have been grounded on national interest.
“Sa tingin ko naman, itong desisyon nga ni presidente — 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 president’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),” the spokesman 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.