Groups ask: Why use GCTA in Pemberton’s early release when it’s suspended?
MANILA, Philippines — Activist groups have questioned the early release of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton from prison in consideration of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) program when it has been suspended in the first place.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said on Wednesday that Pemberton — who was convicted of killing transgender woman Jennifer Laude in 2014 — only served a sentence of six years without the anomalous GCTA.
Olongapo Regional Trial Court Presiding Judge Roline M. Ginez-Jabalde signed an order dated Tuesday saying that Pemberton should be released as he has already accumulated jail time of 10 years, one month, and 10 days — including deducted time due to GCTA in the computation.
“Six years. Yan lang pala ang halaga ng buhay ng isang Pilipino. Matapos ang anim na taon, papalayain na si Pemberton. Anim na taon para sa isang US serviceman na protektado ng VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) at binigyan ng ispesyal na kulungan sa Camp Aguinaldo,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said.
(Six years. That is only how a Filipino life is worth it. After six years, they would release Pemberton: six years for a US Serviceman protected by the VFA and was given special treatment in his cell inside Camp Aguinaldo.)
“Anim na taon lang para sa pagpatay sa isang Pilipino. Paano nga pala nabigyan ng GCTA si Pemberton kung suspended ito matapos ang eskandalo at abuso noong nakaraang taon?” he asked.
(Six years for killing a Filipino. How did Pemberton receive the GCTA benefits when it has been suspended due to the scandals and abuse recorded in 2019?)
The GCTA was ordered suspended by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra in August 2019 after it was revealed that several convicts who have committed heinous crimes might be released for showing good conduct inside the jail.
The list includes former Laguna town mayor Antonio Sanchez who was found guilty of raping and killing a University of Philippines student. In the same month, the Bureau of Corrections admitted that 1,914 heinous crime convicts had been released due to the GCTA.
Meanwhile, party-list group Bayan Muna said the early release of Pemberton showed the preferential treatment that American soldiers receive if they commit wrongdoing in the Philippines.
“We call on the concerned court to review its decision to release Pemberton and to immediately table the appeal of Jennifer Laude’s family. Nakakadismaya na special treatment na nga si Pemberton sa pagtupad sa kanyang sentensya, ay maaga pa siyang lalaya,” Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said.
(It is disappointing that even after Pemberton received special treatment while serving his sentence, this actual sentence would be shortened.)
“He never spent one single day in a Philippine prison, instead he was kept in an American facility, guarded by his fellow American soldiers, and possibly given the best treatment a convicted criminal could wish for. Hindi ko alam kung masasabi talaga natin na naparusahan siya para sa kanyang karumal-dumal na krimen,” he added.
(I do not know if we can even treat that as a sentence and punishment for the crime that he committed.)
Gaite said it is another reason why the VFA between the Philippines and the United States should be totally scrapped.
“We further reiterate our long-standing call for the immediate abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement. This agreement has not only resulted in the murder of Jennifer Laude but also made the special treatment of an American criminal possible,” he claimed. [ac]
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