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Duterte vowed to keep Pemberton detained during his presidency, says Jennifer Laude's mom

For Julita Laude, President Rodrigo Duterte broke a promise when he granted absolute pardon to US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, her daughter's convicted killer.

In a message to media sent to Rappler through her lawyer Virgie Suarez on Friday, September 11, Julita said Duterte had once vowed to keep Pemberton behind bars during his presidency.

"Masaya raw siya [Duterte] na [ipinaglaban] namin ang kaso dahil sabi niya na hangga't siya raw ang nakaupo, hinding hindi niya papayagan na makalaya si Pemberton," Julita said.

(He was happy that we were fighting for our case because he said, while he is a sitting president, he would never allow Pemberton to walk free.)

Julita said Duterte should have at least been hands-off in the Pemberton case to allow the possibility of the convicted soldier to serve his full sentence of 10 years.

"Sampung taong pagkakakulong lang sana ang hinihingi naming kabayaran para sa buhay ng anak ko, SAMPUNG TAON LANG SANA! Napaka iksing panahong kabayarang pagkakakulong para sa buhay ng anak ko," said Julita.

(Just 10 years in jail is all we ask for the life of my child, just 10 years! Such a short time in jail for the life of my child.)

But that day, the Duterte government finished processing Pemberton's release, with Bureau of Correction officials trooping to his detention cell in Camp Aguinaldo to ensure his freedom.

No moving on

Julita will not find it easy to follow Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra's advice to "move on."

(I felt bad because I was so confident, given the President himself was helping me and telling me to fight.)

"Sumama ang loob ko dahil ang buong akala ko na maging ang Pangulo na siya ang tumulong sa akin na sabi niya ipaglaban," she said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque admitted that Duterte had given the Laude family cash aid thrice since 2017 to show his support for their fight for justice.

The amount was substantial, with Roque saying it was "a lot more" than P100,000.

Roque was once the Laude family's legal counsel and ironically called a court decision giving early freedom to Pemberton a miscarriage of justice. But when Duterte granted Pemberton pardon, Roque had to change his tune, saying the freedom the American soldier will enjoy was in exchange for a "higher national interest."

Philippine courts found Pemberton guilty of killing Jennifer Laude, a transgender woman, in 2014. The American was angered that she did not tell him she had male genitals before they were about to have sex.

Pemberton dunked Jennifer's head in the toilet bowl of their hotel room, causing her to die of asphyxia by drowning and strangulation.

Her death opened up old wounds about the treatment of Filipinos under the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the US. Roque even said it was "symbolic of the death of Philippine sovereignty," before Duterte announced his decision to grant a pardon for Pemberton.

Last August 24, Pemberton withdrew his appeal from the Supreme Court, accepting a 2015 lower court ruling which sentenced him to 10 years in prison over homicide.

On August 26, Pemberton's lawyer submitted to court a check worth P4.6 million for the Laude family to cover civil damages. As part of his conviction, aside from prison time, the court also ordered the US Marine to pay P4.3 million for loss of earning capacity of Laude, P30,000 for exemplary damages and P50,000 each for civil indemnity and moral damages.

Then on September 1, an Olongapo court decided to grant credits to Pemberton for supposed good behavior, allowing him to walk free 4 years ahead of his full sentence.

The Duterte government contested the decision and filed a motion for reconsideration. But this was rendered moot when Duterte announced he was granting Pemberton absolute pardon. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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