Philippines-US relations

The agents go to him: Pemberton stays put in military camp for release process

Lian Buan

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The agents go to him: Pemberton stays put in military camp for release process

Joseph Scott Pemberton with Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Bureau of Immigration agents inside Camp Aguinaldo.

Bureau of Corrections

BuCor, immigration, and NBI personnel shuffle through Camp Aguinaldo to complete the process of freedom for pardoned US soldier Joseph Scott Pemberton

Three government agencies on Friday, September 11, sent their personnel to the Philippine military headquarters to complete the process to send home US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton as a free man.

By 11 am on Friday, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) completed Pemberton’s release process, all done inside the soldier’s detention cell at the Joint Military Assistance Group (Jusmag) facility in Camp Aguinaldo. 

After the BuCor “released” Pemberton, it turned over custody to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for the deportation process.

“He will be turned over to the BI team who will take over custodial duties at the Jusmag facility where Pemberton is detained,” BuCor Spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag said.

One of the procedures for deportation is the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) clearance. The NBI documents, likewise, will be brought to Camp Aguinaldo, said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

“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 US Embassy,” Guevarra said over DZMM Teleradyo Friday morning.

(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 US embassy.)

Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said once the deportation process is done inside Camp Aguinaldo, Pemberton will be taken straight to the airport escorted by BI agents. Pemberton cannot be brought elsewhere in between.

“That is correct. He will remain in detention until his deportation,” Perete told reporters in an exchange on Friday.

It was unclear whether Pemberton would be able to leave the country on Friday. Guevarra said he supports calls to allow limited media coverage of Pemberton’s departure to remove any doubts of his whereabouts.

As of Friday noon, Guevarra was still unable to finalize details on whether other media aside from state-run PTV can cover Pemberton’s departure, or whether any media coverage will happen at all. 

“We’ll discuss this matter with the BI for now,” Guevarra said.

Pemberton was sentenced to 10 years for homicide. He killed transwoman Jennifer Laude by dunking her head into a toilet bowl, after he found out that she had male genitals after they had oral sex. (PODCAST: KRIMINAL: Where is justice for Jennifer Laude?)

Pemberton was charged and tried for the heinous crime of murder, but was convicted for the lesser crime of homicide, allowing him a shorter sentence of 10 years.

Pemberton has only served 6 years of his sentence inside a special facility in Camp Aguinaldo where he is the only detainee, and was about to avail of full credits of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) to walk free ahead of his full sentence.

But contentions from government lawyers delayed the early release, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to cut short the process and grant Pemberton the absolute pardon.

Guevarra did not respond to queries on Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque’s “guess” that Duterte pardoned Pemberton for the Philippines to secure US COVID-19 vaccine, if the US successfully develops one.–

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.