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‘Such powers must be done with prudence’: CHR hits Duterte’s pardon to Pemberton

/ 06:52 PM September 09, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to grant absolute pardon to US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was condemned by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), who urged the Chief Executive to exercise such powers with prudence.

Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit, who handles CHR’s Gender Equality affairs, reminded Duterte on Wednesday that while this move was well within his mandate, giving out pardons should be exercised in sensitivity to the relatives of the convict’s victims, in this case, the Laude family.

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Pemberton, found guilty for killing Filipina transgender Jennifer Laude in 2014, was recently ordered by the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court released after supposedly completing his 10-year sentence.  However, after backlash from activists, President Duterte chose to pardon Pemberton as the country allegedly did not treat him fairly.

“As Gender Ombud, the Commission on Human Rights expresses its dismay and utter disappointment over the President’s grant of full pardon to US Marine PFC Joseph Scott Pemberton, the American service member guilty of killing Jennifer Laude,” Dumpit said in a statement.

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“The Commission recognises the scope of the President’s power to grant pardon. However, there is still an obligation to account for the exercise of the pardon, to wield this power with prudence and sensitivity to the plight of victims,” she added.

In the order from the Olongapo court, it was said that Pemberton already completed his 10-year sentence, accounting for deductions made due to his good conduct time allowance (GCTA) credits.  However, critics said that GCTA should not be used because it was suspended, after irregularities were found along the program.

Duterte granted the pardon on Monday, defending his decision during his televised broadcast later on.  He said that it is not Pemberton’s fault that his GCTA credits were not accounted for during his stay inside Camp Crame.

Pemberton’s counsel lawyer Rowena Flores said that her client was the victim of a “special negative treatment” as people want him out of the GCTA program when a lot of people are benefitting from the system.

She also noted that if the Pemberton does not receive GCTA, then it would only show that the country is “primitive”.

But CHR says otherwise: Pemberton’s release shows double standards favoring the United States serviceman.

“Pemberton’s express pardon exhibited double standards, lack of fairness, and the absence of empathy for the LGBTQI community,” Dumpit said.

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“Pemberton committed one of the most brutal crimes against a transwoman in the country. Granting a presidential pardon to such a felon is an affront to the LGBTQI community. It is an affront to the Laude family and the LGBTQI community,” she added.

Dumpit also stressed that rather than freeing people who committed hate crimes against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBTQIA+) community, laws and measures to protect those part of the community should be crafted and enforced.

“Killings of transgender persons continue to rise worldwide. In the Philippines, they continue to be victims of violence and harassment. Protections in law and procedure remain scant and often, members of the LGBTQI communities face systemic barriers in accessing justice,” Dumpit explained.

“[CHR] joins the call for the respect and protection of the rights of LGBTQI community, especially those who continue to face abuse, discrimination, and indignities because of their Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC),” she noted.

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TAGS: absolute pardon, CHR, Commission on Human Rights, Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit, GCTA, GCTA scheme, Good Conduct Time Allowance, Jennifer Laude, Joseph Pemberton, Laude family, Olongapo Regional Trial Court, Philippine news updates, President Rodrigo Duterte, release order, Rowena Flores, US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, VFA, Visiting Forces Agreement
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