Pemberton’s lawyer says client was given ‘special negative treatment’
MANILA, Philippines — Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton of the US Marines, who was granted absolute pardon on Monday, was subjected to a “special negative treatment” with his late release, his counsel said on Monday.
According to lawyer Rowena Flores, she felt that Pemberton — convicted in 2014 for killing Filipina transgender Jennifer Laude — was singled out before because a lot of prisoners had already been freed under the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) scheme. But her client was not included.
Flores said that had Pemberton remained in prison even after supposedly completing his jail time of 10 years — which was trimmed down to six actual years due to the GCTA. It was unfair for the Pemberton, she said.
“So far, since 2013, there have been 20,000 prisoners who had been freed under GCTA without being questioned if they already behaved, how many days they had been well-behaved, et cetera,” Flores said, speaking partly in Filipino, in an interview with AM radio station DZBB.
“It is only now that it appears they are fixated on Pemberton, that he is being given special negative treatment — which was not given to ordinary Filipinos or even other foreigners who were not subject to the VFA,” she added.
Flores also shut down talks that Pemberton’s release was borne out of the Philippine government’s desire to appease the US.
The lawyers of the Laude family and other left-leaning groups pointed out this issue, citing government moves that favor the US — such as the reinstatement of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the purchase of arms from the said country, and now Pemberton’s release.
Flores said that these were mere speculations. But she also noted that they were not expecting the pardon from Duterte, thanking the President for his act.
“You know, what they’re saying is one big speculation. There’s no such political exchange. As I said, his sentence is from six to 10 years, and he’s now completed his six years,” she said.
“So, in fact, what we feared was that he would not be freed. I was thinking: Were they refusing to release him because they were giving in to interest groups like the LGBT and the communists?” she said.
Pemberton’s early release was based on an order issued by Olongapo Regional Trial Court Presiding Judge Roline M. Ginez-Jabalde, saying that Pemberton had completed his jail sentence under the reduced time allowed under the GCTA.
Critics questioned Pemberton’s release — noting that the GCTA scheme was suspended after anomalies in its implementation came out, including the possible release of heinous crime convicts.
Amid these issues, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque — who once served as the Laude family’s counsel — said that the release would be suspended pending the resolution of a motion for reconsideration filed by the prosecution.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier revealed that Duterte had already pardoned Pemberton.
Flores said Pemberton would be willing to talk with Laude’s relatives to apologize for the incident — noting that Pemberton’s alleged unwillingness to apologize, according to some reports, was because he had no cellphone.
“Now that he has been pardoned, I myself would tell him: Here’s the telephone number. Tell them what you want to say,” Flores said when asked if Pemberton would apologize.
“He would agree,” she added.
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