Philippine justice system

Philippines to deport US soldier Pemberton after Duterte pardon

Lian Buan
Philippines to deport US soldier Pemberton after Duterte pardon
The foreign affairs department will not intervene

The Philippine government will deport US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton to the United States after being pardoned by President Rodrigo Duterte for brutally killing a Filipino transgender woman in 2014.

Once Pemberton is released from his detention cell in Camp Aguinaldo, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) will ask for his custody to process his deportation order.

“The bureau will arrange and schedule the flight of the deportee who will be escorted by BI intelligence agents and civil security personnel, and would later turn him over to the airline concerned before he boards the aircraft,” said BI legal chief Arvin Santos in a statement on Wednesday, September 9.

Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said it is possible that the deportation procedure will be done at the airport.

“If all of those arrangements are made, it’s possible that he may be brought either to the main office or to the airport for immediate deportation,” Perete said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will not intervene. In a tweet, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr said, “I have ordered the Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces (PCVF) under me to follow the Department of Justice (DOJ).”

The BI is an attached agency to the DOJ.

“At any rate, we are awaiting instructions from our Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra for guidance on how we will implement the deportation order in a manner that is within the prescribed laws of the country,” said BI Commissioner Jaime Morente.

Morente said that the deportation order was issued against Pemberton on September 16, 2015, “for being an undesirable alien.” Two months later, Pemberton was convicted of homicide and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States allowed Pemberton to serve his sentence at a restricted facility at the military headquarters in Camp Bagong Diwa.

The Pemberton privilege

Pemberton, then 19 years old, was an American serviceman who visited the red light district North of Pampanga. He had oral sex with transgender woman Jennifer Laude, and then found out she had male genitals.

Pemberton arm-locked Laude, and dunked her head on a toilet bowl, killing her. Laude was 26. A local court convicted Pemberton of the lesser crime of homicide, considered not a heinous crime by DOJ’s standard which is the repealed death penalty law.

Pemberton was about to walk free only 6 years into his 10-year sentence because of his benefits under the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA).

But Philippine government lawyers, including state prosecutors, had contentions to his GCTA, prolonging what was supposed to be an executory release order on September 1. The Laude family also questioned his good conduct record, given that he was in isolation and away from regular jails. (READ: In US Marine Pemberton pardon, Duterte undermines state lawyers)

Duterte cut short the process and gave Pemberton the absolute pardon, a purely discretionary presidential act that cannot be questioned.

Pemberton did not apply for the pardon, cutting through the long procedure Filipino convicts have to comply with for the coveted act of grace.  

Pemberton’s case raised new issues with the thorny GCTA, including whether Filipinos have been benefitting from it at all in the past year since the DOJ fumbled on the revision of its implementing rules.

The DOJ, to date, has not released a GCTA manual, putting on hold the releases of some convicts set to benefit. –

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Lian Buan

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