Opposition solons in the House of Representatives let out a howl of disapproval Monday night after learning that United States (US) Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was convicted for killing a Filipino transwoman, had been granted absolute pardon by President Duterte.
Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, a former House minority leader, said in a statement that while the constitutional power of the President to pardon prisoners whose convictions have become final is deemed absolute, “such act of executive clemency must neither be arbitrary nor capricious.”
“There appears to be no just and valid reason for granting Pemberton an absolute pardon,” he said.
Lagman, an administration critic, said the Board of Pardons and Parole had yet to recommend the US serviceman’s pardon. “(The) Department of Justice, to which the Board is an attached agency, is in the process of preparing a motion for the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court to reconsider its order for the early release of Pemberton erroneously based on good conduct time allowance (GCTA).”
Furthermore, the human rights lawyer-congressman said President Duterte “should have considered the sentiments of the family of the victim, Jennifer Laude, as well as the escalating protests against the projected premature release of Pemberton and upholding Philippine sovereignty by making convicted US military personnel serve their full sentence.”
Militant Makabayan Bloc members in the Lower Chamber likewise slammed the decision to let Pemberton walk free.
“This move by President Duterte is an outright disregard for the respect of the Philippine justice system and an affront to our sovereignty. Pardoning such heinous crime is clearly an evidence of betrayal of public trust,” said Gabriela Party-List Rep. Arlene Brosas, who went as far to say that Duterte has committed “treason.”
“Pemberton’s guilt in the death of Jennifer Laude is loud and clear. US intervention continues to generate a climate of heinous crimes, injustice, and impunity within Philippine society,” she said.
Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Ferdinand Gaite called the granting of an absolute pardon “an injustice to Jennifer Laude, an injustice to the Filipino people.”
“There is a pending appeal in the court from the family of Jennifer Laude, but this connivance between Malacañang and the United States government ensured that this appeal would not prosper,”
An Olongapo City court last week approved Pemberton’s release following the application of the GCTA rule or good behavior credits on his 10-year sentence, which was handed down in 2015.
The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) subsequently recognized the Laude family’s motion for reconsideration, and said it wouldn’t release the American convict until it is resolved.
“Dahil sa VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) at EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), siya (Pemberton) ay nagkaroon ng special treatment sa pagpapatupad ng kaniyang sentensya, napawalang sala pa ng sarili nating Pangulo at maagang makakalaya (Because of the VFA and EDCA, he enjoyed special treatment with the imposition of his sentence, and on top of that was pardoned by our own President),” Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said.
“Nakakagalit dahil walang tunay na hustisya na nakamit para kay Jennifer Laude (It angers me because no true justice was achieved for Jennifer Laude),” she added.
Pemberton killed Laude at an Olongapo City motel on October 11, 2014 after finding out that she was a transwoman.