Duterte grants absolute pardon to US Marine who killed Filipino transgender woman
By Celerina Monte
President Rodrigo Duterte has granted absolute pardon to convicted killer US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed on Monday the tweet of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on the granting of absolute pardon to the American serviceman, who was convicted in 2015 for killing Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude.
"That means Pemberton will be freed. There's no more issue on whether or not he is entitled to GCTA (Good Conduct Time Allowance). There's no more issue if the law is applicable on him because he was not imprisoned in the national penitentiary," said Roque, who acted as Laude family's lawyer when he was still in private practice.
Pemberton was never transferred to the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City despite his conviction. He served his sentence in a facility inside military's Camp Aquinaldo headquarters in Quezon City and was guarded by American soldiers.
Prior to Duterte's granting of absolute pardon to Pemberton, the regional trial court judge in Olongapo City had ordered on September 1 his release by virtue of the GCTA.
In ordering Pemberton's release, the Olongapo court cited that the US serviceman had a total accumulated time served of 10 years, one month, and 10 days based on GCTA even if his actual imprisonment was only six years.
Following the lower court's order, the Bureau of Corrections had filed a motion for reconsideration and Roque then urged not to release Pemberton while the motion was still being resolved.
But with the absolute pardon, Roque said Pemberton could now go back to his country.
"He can go home because he was already given pardon," he said.
Roque said there is no need for Duterte to justify his decision favoring Pemberton.
"The President does not need to give any reason because the granting of pardon and parole, and that's what we've been saying, that it's not the duty of the judiciary but it's the duty of the executive. That's one of the most presidential of all the presidential powers, the grant of pardon and parole," he said.
Roque also clarified that Duterte was not against US. What he has been pursuing is an independent foreign policy and that the Philippines is a friend to everyone and enemy to none, he said.
While Pemberton was given the absolute pardon, Roque said it would not erase the fact that he was convicted for killing Laude.
"He's still a killer," he added.
Pemberton was convicted of homicide in December 2015 for killing Laude inside a motel in 2014 after he discovered that the latter was not really a woman. The court ordered his imprisonment for six to 10 years. DMS