‘Pemberton must stay in jail pending gov’t appeal on his early release’ — Roque

Published September 3, 2020, 2:15 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling & Jeffrey G. Damicog

US Marine Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton must remain in detention since the court ruling on his release is not yet final and executory, Malacañang said Thursday.


Pemberton was convicted for the 2014 killing of transgender Jennifer Laude and sentenced to a prison term ranging from six to 12 years.

According to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, the government intends to file a motion for reconsideration on the court decision ordering the early release of Pemberton based on good conduct, insisting that it was an “instance of judicial overreach.”

“Sa mga naghahawak sa pagkatao ni Pemberton, hayaan ninyo, bigyan ninyo ng pagkakataon na mag-move for reconsideration ang executive branch dahil ang decision naman sa allowance for good conduct is an executive function. So yung ginawa ni judge na siya nagdesisyon kung paano siya bibigyan ng credit ng good conduct is an instance of judicial overreach (To those holding Pemberton, let or give the executive branch a chance to move for reconsideration because the decision on the allowance for good conduct is an executive function. The decision of the judge based on a reckoning of good conduct credits purportedly earned by the convicted prisoner is an instance of judicial overreach),” Roque said during a televised press briefing Thursday.

“Huwag mo munang palalabasin kasi hindi pa naman final and executory ang decision na ‘yan. Puwede pa mag-motion for reconsideration ang Republika ng Pilipinas (Do not release him yet because the decision is not final and executory. The Republic of the Philippines can still file a motion for reconsideration),” he said.

On Wednesday, a court in Olongapo City ordered the release of Pemberton from detention after serving his prison sentence. The order was based on the application of good conduct time allowance that purportedly reduced his prison term.

In 2015, the court convicted Pemberton of homicide over the killing Jennifer Laude in Olongapo City in 2014. Pemberton was originally sentenced six to 12 years in prison for the crime. But a year later, the court reduced his prison term to 10 years.

Roque said he has talked to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who mentioned to him the government’s plans to appeal the latest court decision.

He said the court decision ran against the position taken by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) that Pemberton’s educational activity must not be credited under his good conduct allowance.

“Sang-ayon kasi sa batas na nagbibigay nitong allowance for good conduct, kinakailangan na may rekomendasyon ang Bureau of Corrections. It turns out na itong desisyon ng hukuman ay labag o contrary to the recommendation of the Bureau of Corrections (Under the law that gives allowance for good conduct, there must be a recommendation from the Bureau of Corrections. It turns out the court decision is against or contrary to the recommendation of the Bureau of Corrections),” he said.

Roque said Guevarra is expected to meet with BuCor officials and concerned fiscals to discuss the government’s move on the Pemberton case.

DOJ Undersecretary Markk Perete pointed that the family of Laude has a filed a motion for reconsideration (MR) which seeks to overturn the order of Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 74 to release Pemberton.

“The MR would have to be resolved first,” stressed the DOJ spokesman.

“The BuCor cannot preempt court action on the MR by prematurely releasing Pemberton,” he added.

Last Wednesday, Sept. 2, lawyer Virginia Lacsa Suarez, the legal counsel of the Laude family, filed the MR which asked that the court “set aside” its release order and “a new one be issued denying Pemberton’s early release.”

The lawyer argued that there was no reason for the court to reduce the sentence of Pemberton by giving him good conduct time allowance (GCTA) credits.

“Good conduct allowance is not a matter of right. It is a privilege subject to the presentation of proof and recommendation of actual ‘good conduct’. Otherwise, this is subject to abuse and can be circumvented easily. If this is so, this is clearly an injustice!” explained the lawyer.

The legal counsel cited that, under the 2017 Uniform Manual on Time Allowances and Service of Sentence, good conduct refers to “the non-violation of prison rules and active involvement in rehabilitation programs, productive participation in authorized work activities or accomplishment of exemplary deeds coupled with faithful obedience to all prison rules and regulations.”

Suarez added GCTA is “a privilege granted to a PDL (person deprived of liberty), entitling him/her to a reduction of prison term for every month of actual detention or service of sentence as a reward for good conduct and exemplary behavior.”

“Significantly, in the case of Pemberton, there is no showing that he has any active involvement in rehabilitation programs or has participated in any authorized work activities or has accomplished any exemplary deed. No good conduct can be attributed to him. Hence, no good conduct time allowance should be granted to him,” the lawyer stressed.

If he did so, Suarez said “the time allowance supervisor would have recorded the same.”

“But there is none,” she emphasized.

Suarez said also absent is “a recommendation made by the management, screening and evaluation committee.”

“All that Pemberton submitted is his self-serving computation. Even the Bureau of Correction’s submission was just a mere computation without any material basis. Hence, (these) should not be given credence by the Honorable Court,” Suarez argued.

The lawyer pointed out hat Pemberton a national prisoner and should have served his sentence at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.

Despite this, Suarez lamented that Pemberton invoked the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) under which he has been given the “privilege” of “serving his sentence solo and comfortably in a specially-made facility in Camp Aguinaldo, with US soldiers surrounding and protecting the aforesaid facility.”

“His conduct was never put to test as he has never joined other convicts. Had he served his sentence in National Bilibid, maybe his application for good conduct would have some basis,” she pointed out.