The Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has granted an absolute pardon for Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, as reports confirm.
The former US marine has been serving time in the Philippine prison since 2015 after the courts found him guilty for killing the 26-year-old transgender woman, Jennifer Laude, in 2014.
Accordingly, Pemberton has served five years of his 10-year sentence. One of the points considered for his release was his good conduct while in prison, which falls under the country’s Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.
US marine relieved of imprisonment
As BBC notes, Pemberton was granted early release just last week after the local court acknowledge his good behavior while serving time. However, an appeal from the victim’s family held up the court’s decision.
Per the president’s statement, Pemberton was not treated “fairly” as his GCTA credits “were not recorded by Philippine authorities,” according to the state-run media outlet, PNA.
Furthermore, the president believes that Pemberton should be allowed of “good character presumption” because it was not allegedly his fault that his GCTA credits were not computed.
In a surprise move, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has pardoned a U.S. Marine in the 2014 killing of a transgender woman. The case has rekindled perceptions that American military personnel who run afoul of Philippine laws can get special treatment. https://t.co/6yxYHXoh4N
— The Associated Press (@AP) September 7, 2020
As CNN notes, political critics believe that it was easy to assume good behavior from the US marine as he was serving his time alone and not with the general prison population.
Per the president’s spokesperson, Harry Roque, Pemberton is now free to go home. The president has now relieved him of his “remaining punishment.”
Pemberton is from New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was an anti-tank missile operator assigned in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Cutting matters short over what constitutes time served, and since where he was detained was not in the prisoner’s control—and to do justice—the President has granted an absolute pardon to Pemberton. Here at the Palace.
— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) September 7, 2020
The Jennifer Laude case
Pemberton was in the Philippines for military exercises pursuant to the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
As BBC narrates, he and Laude met in a bar in Olongapo back in October of 2014. Police reports entail that the two checked into a hotel.
The following day, Laude was found dead in the bathroom of their hotel room.
Pemberton admitted to choking Laude after finding out that she was transgender. He did try reviving her, according to CNN’‘s report.
Although BBC noted that Pemberton claimed Laude was still alive when he left the hotel room.
The president’s decision angered many, more importantly, the LGBTQ+ community. According to the lawyer of Laude’s family, Virginia Suarez:
“This is another injustice, not only to Jennifer Laude and family but a grave injustice to the Philippine people. This is a travesty of Philippine sovereignty and democracy.”
Per the local media outlet, Inquirer.Net, Spokesperson Roque said that “there is no need” for the president “to give a reason” for his decision. Reports confirm that Roque used to be part of the legal team seeking justice for the victim.
Roque was part of the Laude family's legal team. Today, without the slightest flinch, he announces that Duterte gave absolute pardon to Pemberton.
Grief and indignation with the Laude family. Grave enough to see Jennifer's killer get away; worse when your own lawyer betrays you. https://t.co/1k4nIi65W0
— Ash Presto 💜 (@sosyolohija) September 7, 2020
Roque further highlights that this is “one of the most presidential of all presidential powers, the grant of pardon and parole.”
While the government brags about Pemberton’s good conduct, the Laude family never heard him apologize. Although not required by law, the family’s lawyer, Suarez, emphasized: “[T]hat would have simply shown his good manners and right conduct.”
Featured image courtesy of VirtKitty/Flickr