Two men who do not know each other, presumably. American Marine Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, here on R ‘n R in 2014, convicted of killing a Filipina transgender, was freed by virtue of a full and absolute presidential pardon. Bienvenido Espino, a Filipino working in Kuwait, was sentenced to die for the killing of his Filipina partner in 2007 but pardoned by the Amir of Kuwait.
Pemberton flew out of Manila last Sunday, Sept. 13, to return to the US. Two weeks earlier, on Aug. 30, Espino returned to the Philippines. Pemberton spent six years in isolation in an airconditioned cell. Espino was in a big prison for 13 years.
Pemberton was initially ordered released on Sept. 2 by the Olongapo court for having served his time (six to 10 years maximum) and availing of a good conduct and time allowance pass. Sometime last month, his lawyer handed over a check for P4.6 million representing civil damages to the family of his victim, Jennifer Laude.
Espino was detained in the Sulaibiya Central Jail after his death sentence (by hanging) was commuted on the pleadings of Presidents Arroyo and Aquino III. “Blood money” (amount not reported) was paid to the family of Espino’s victim; he also asked for their forgiveness. Pemberton’s “message” to the Laude family was written in the third person, provoking their lawyer to question his sincerity.
Pemberton was pardoned by President Duterte because it was “not fair” to keep him in prison after it was shown that the Marine, the first American soldier to be covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement, had not been made aware that he could avail of his GCTA privilege. Moreover, no complaint had ever been received about his conduct and behavior while in detention.
Espino was pardoned by the Kuwaiti Amir in keeping with the spirit of the Eid season. He was not the only Filipino prisoner freed; other OFWs in the same jail were released.
Upon Pemberton’s departure on a US military plane last Sunday morning, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra expressed his relief at the end of the Pemberton episode – a sensational, topsy-turvy week whose events and moments our students of law will be passionately debating and discussing for a long, long time. Meanwhile, where’s Espino?