Philippine justice system

Show Pemberton: Laudes slam Duterte pardon as part of cover-up

Lian Buan

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

When did the American soldier apply for a pardon? Did he apply at all? And is he here?

The camp of slain transwoman Jennifer Laude slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s act of granting absolute pardon to US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, saying it is part of a ploy to hide that Pemberton is no longer in Philippine jurisdiction.

“Ano ba ito malaking kalokohan ba? Moro moro lang ba? Matagal na bang wala si Pemberton kaya ang mga nangyayari sa korte, mga pinagagagawa nila ay para bigyan ng legal color o para i-justify dahil wala na talaga si Pemberton?” the Laudes’ lawyer, Virgie Suarez, told reporters Monday after finding out the news of Duterte’s absolute pardon.

(Is this all a joke? Is this a circus? Is Pemberton still here or is he’s long gone and everything that happened in the court, everything they did to give legal color has just been to justify the fact that he’s no longer here?)

The Olongapo court held a hearing on Monday, September 7, to tackle the Laudes’ appeal to the early release granted to Pemberton on account of his Good Conduct Time Allowance. 

The US Marine had been sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2015 over the killing of Laude in 2014, but the Olongapo court’s decision last week aimed to free him 4 years earlier than his scheduled release.

On the basis of the Laudes’ appeal, the court asked the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to submit an updated computation. The court was also going to wait until the Department of Justice (DOJ) had filed its own motion for reconsideration of the release. 

While waiting, the Laude camp said the Philippine government must show proof that Pemberton is still detained at the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

The DOJ and the BuCor passed the buck on each other on this request.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said: “BuCor may have special rules for US military personnel detained under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), more so during this pandemic. The laude family may inquire directly with the BuCor.”

But BuCor spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag said he will ask the DOJ.

“Pemberton is covered by the VFA and it is implied we have to consult the DOJ and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on this issue. Our legal department is already doing that,” said Chaclag.

Suarez said she cannot help but speculate if their pronouncements to take the issue all the way to the Supreme Court was a factor to the pardon.

“Dahil ang demand ng family ipakita si Pemberton kaya ngayon… Dahil sinasabi ko hanggang Supreme Court ike-question ko to kaya ngayon absolute pardon?” said Suarez.

Did he apply?

It is unclear when Pemberton applied for the pardon, if he did at all.

Guevarra and Pemberton’s lawyer Rowena Garcia Flores have not been responding to repeated questions whether there was an application in the first place.

An act of absolute pardon is fully discretionary on the part of the president. 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, once a lawyer for the Laudes, acknowledged that the pardon has cleared all the stumbling blocks and nothing can now stop the release of Pemberton.

His group, the Center for International Law (CenterLaw), said Pemberton’s freedom and its assault on the Laude family is among the price Filipinos have to pay for the Duterte government’s pandering to the United States.

“Laude’s case shows Filipinos have remained second-class citizens in their own country, their own welfare being secondary only to those of foreigners,” said CenterLaw.

The court convicted Pemberton for killing Laude, whom he had just had oral sex with. Upon discovering she had male genitals, the US soldier – who was part of an American team that joined military exercises with Filipino troops – arm-locked Laude and dunked her head in the toilet bowl in a lodge in Olongapo City.

He was 19 at the time of the killing. Laude was 26. –

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Lian Buan

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