Group asks Duterte: Why in a rush to free Pemberton?
MANILA, Philippines — A group has questioned why President Rodrigo Duterte appears in a hurry to release US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton as he granted absolute pardon to the American soldier.
Aside from Duterte’s supposed quick decision, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general Renato Reyes also asked what basis was used in giving Pemberton absolute pardon, and eventually preempt court procedures.
Pemberton, who was found guilty of killing Filipina transgender Jennifer Laude in 2014, was previously ordered released by Olongapo Regional Trial Court Presiding Judge Roline M. Ginez-Jabalde — as he has supposedly completed his jail time, considering deductions via the good conduct time allowance (GCTA).
“What is the basis of granting absolute pardon to convicted US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton? Why preempt the court process? Why is the President in a rush to pardon the killer of Filipino transwoman Jennifer Laude?” Reyes asked in a statement.
“The absolute pardon, and the context and timing of the same, is a betrayal of national interest and a great injustice for the Laude family,” he added.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced via Twitter on Monday that Duterte has granted absolute pardon to Pemberton.
“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,” the Department of Foreign Affairs chief tweeted.
READ: Duterte grants ‘absolute pardon’ to Pemberton – Locsin
Duterte’s granting of absolute pardon to Pemberton comes after presidential spokesperson Harry Roque assured that the American soldier’s release is on hold to await a possible motion for reconsideration from the prosecution panel.
A former private lawyer for Laude’s family, Roque also condemned the short prison time for Pemberton who was supposed to serve 10 years in jail but the controversial GCTA reduced it to just over six years.
Bayan had previously questioned why Pemberton was released using the GCTA rule when it was suspended in 2019 due to anomalies surrounding the implementation of the policy after heinous crime convicts were included in the list of people who may be released via GCTA.
READ: Groups ask: Why use GCTA in Pemberton’s early release when it’s suspended?
Reyes then speculated that Duterte’s absolute pardon of Pemberton was the administration’s way to appease the United States — contradicting Duterte’s insistence on an independent foreign policy.
“The absolute pardon comes months after Duterte reversed his early pronouncement of terminating the VFA. The Philippine president has restored the VFA to please the Americans. He has gone even further by pardoning Pemberton who was the subject of special treatment under the VFA,” Reyes pointed out.
“So much for claims of having an independent foreign policy. The US government had its way again on this issue,” he added.
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