Philippines refuses to immediately release US soldier Pemberton

The Philippine government refused to immediately implement a court's release order of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton and said through the Department of Justice (DOJ) that the release will be put on hold.

"The Motion for Reconsideration (MR) would have to be resolved first. The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) cannot preempt court action on the MR by prematurely releasing Pemberton," Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete told reporters Thursday afternoon, September 3.

It settled conflicting information that surfaced Thursday, because at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, BuCor Spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag had told ABS-CBN News that they have started processing the release of Pemberton.

Pemberton is an American soldier convicted of homicide and sentenced to 10 years because of killing Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude. He was covered by the decades-old Visiting Forces Agreement with the US, and was recently granted full credits of Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) under a Philippine law. Pemberton's full credits came with a release order.

Chaclag had told ABS-CBN News that they have "no choice but to follow the court's order."

This interview coincided with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque's briefing in Malacañang saying that the DOJ has advised to stop the release process.

The DOJ's marching order would reach BuCor after a couple of minutes. Chaclag then told reporters in a text message: "BuCor respects the court processes and will wait for the resolution of the filed MR. Meanwhile, the normal release process is on hold."

The motion for reconsideration was filed by the Laude family, insisting to see proof of Pemberton's good behavior records, given that he was at a restricted facility in the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo. Another Laude lawyer has pointed out that Pemberton may not be covered by the GCTA law at all.

BuCor's computation for Pemberton's GCTA would have him detained 10 months longer before he is qualified for early release. Pemberton has so far served 6 years in total out of the maximum 10-year sentence.

The DOJ has not yet responded to a question whether it will join Laude's appeal, or if it will raise a different set of issues with the court.

There's also the question of whether the DOJ can defy a court order, seeing that release orders are generally immediately executory.

In an earlier interview, Laude's lawyer Virgie Suarez said the order is effective after 10 days only. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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