Duterte opted to pardon Pemberton after meeting with Locsin, Guevarra

Published September 15, 2020, 9:38 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

President Duterte conferred with at least two Cabinet members–namely, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin Jr., and Departmemt of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra–before deciding to give former United States (US) Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton an absolute pardon.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on September 14, 2020. ACE MORANDANTE/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Locsin recalled before the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday afternoon a conversation he had with Duterte that gave a snippet of the latter’s thought process when it came to handling the case of the convicted killer.

Before this, opposition solon, Gabriela Party-List Rep. Arlene Brosas asked Locsin what role the DFA played, if any, in the controversial granting of pardon to Pemberton.

“All I can is tell you exactly what happened. There was no grant for a request for a pardon. The President, on his own initiative…when we were in a meeting, he told me, ‘Teddy Boy, you know, a prisoner has no contol over the conditions of his confinement,'” Locsin said.

Duterte, Locsin said, noted that the Olongapo City court that sentenced Pemberton to a 10-year jail term in 2015 deemed the US servicemen as eligible for release due to the application of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) rule.

Locsin said that for the Chief Executive, a part of Pemberton’s sentence was “not observed by the Bureau of Corrections because he was in detention at the US Marine barracks.”

“This is his view, he is a practicing lawyer, a litigator, and a prosecutor,” the DFA chief said of the 75-year-old Duterte. “Teddy Boy, I think I’m going to give him a pardon,” he then quoted the President as saying.

“And then we waited for Guevarra to come in. And then Guevarra came in and he (Duterte) said, ‘Where are we now?’ And he (Guevarra) said, ‘Well, there’s a motion for reconsideration in court (against Pemberton’s early release). If you want to wait for that, you can and see where it goes.'”

“But he (Duterte) said, ‘No, I think it’s unfair.’ And he explained again, ‘If the court has already found that he qualifies for good conduct time allowance, why don’t I just give him a pardon and cut this all short?'” Locsin said.

“Sec. Guevarra said, ‘Well that’s your prerogative, it’s an absolute prerogative as President.’ Then he (Duterte) said, ‘I’m doing that right now,'” narrated Locsin.

Pemberton brought Filipino Jennifer Laude to an Olongapo City motel on October 11, 2014, only to kill her shortly after finding out she was a transwoman. Malacañang announced the granting of an absolute pardon to the American last September 7. Pemberton as since been deported.

Pro-women solon Brosas said the pardon “gave no respect” to the Visiting Forces Agreement, particularly Article 5.1.A, which says that “Philippine authority shall have jurisdiction over United States personnel with respect to offenses committed within the Philippines and punishable under the laws of the Philippines.”

DFA’s proposed budget for 2021 is P21.96 billion. Appropriations panel chairman, ACT-CIS Party-List Rep. Eric Go Yap terminated the budget deliberation for the agency at around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.