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Duterte grants absolute pardon to Pemberton

President Rodrigo Duterte has granted absolute pardon to a US Marine who was convicted of killing a transgender Filipino woman in 2014.

In a briefing from Davao City, Duterte said homicide convict US Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was treated unfairly when his behavior while detained and in prison was not duly monitored by Philippine authorities for good conduct time credits.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. hours earlier broke the news about Duterte's decision to grant Pemberton absolute pardon amid questions on the computation of his good conduct time allowance (GCTA).

Pemberton killed Jennifer Laude in 2014 after he realized that she was a transgender woman while they were out on a date.

The US Marine, who was a participant in joint military exercises, was convicted in 2015 and was detained in accordance with the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement.

The Olongapo Regional Trial Court last week determined that Pemberton had gained enough GCTA credits for him to be released forthwith. This was contested by lawyers for the Laude family.

"'Pag walang record di mo malaman kung nabilang ba o hindi. Pag ka ganon hindi kasalanan ni Pemberton. He is not required to keep a record of his own and characterize his behavior while inside the prison," Duterte said.

"So sabi ko kay Justice Secretary [Menardo Guevarra], [Executive Secretary Salvador] Medialdea... 'Correct me if I'm wrong but ito ang tingin ko sa kaso. You have not treated Pemberton fairly. So i-release mo'," he added.

"Pardon. Ang pardon walang maka-question niyan. Kaligayahan ko na lang magpakulong ng mga buang, mga gago but it is time that you are called upon to be fair, be fair," Duterte said.

Locsin broke the news of Pemberton's pardon late Monday afternoon.

"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," Locsin said on Twitter.

Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed the President’s action.

“Binura na po ng Presidente kung ano pa ‘yung parusa na ipapataw kay Pemberton,” Roque, who once served as legal counsel for victim Jennifer Laude's family, said in an interview. “Puwede na po siyang umuwi dahil meron na po siyang pardon.”

Roque said Duterte need not justify his decision.

“Hindi na po kinakailangan bigyan ng dahilan ng Presidente ‘yan dahil 'yung pag-grant ng pardon at parole at iyan naman po ang ating sinasabi na hindi po ‘yan katungkulan ng hudikatura kundi katungkulan ng ehekutibo,” he said.

The Regional Trial Court in Olongapo City last week ordered the early release of Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was sentenced to a six- to 10-year imprisonment for killing Laude, a transgender woman.

TIMELINE: Revisiting the Jennifer Laude slay case

Pemberton, who has served five years of the sentence, had earned GCTA, said Judge Roline Ginez-Abalde.

The court said Pemberton had served a total of 2,142 days and earned 1,548 GCTAs. Taken together, this amounts to 3,690 days, or 10 years, one month, and 10 days.

The court order was protested and appealed by Laude's family, who said that Pemberton was not eligible for early release via GCTA.

The Bureau of Corrections later suspended Pemberton's release, pending resolution of the Laude family's appeal that the serviceman complete his service of sentence.

The Department of Justice had also planned to file its own motion asking the Olongapo court to reconsider its order.

“Wala na pong issue kung siya ay entitled sa GCTA. Wala na pong issue kung applicable ba sa kanya ang batas dahil hindi siya nakulong sa national penitentiary,” Roque said.

“Ang hindi po nabura ng Presidente, ‘yung conviction ni Pemberton. Mamamatay-tao pa rin po siya.”

US taken by surprise



According to GMA News' JP Soriano, Locsin also said that the US did not request a pardon for Pemberton, and that even US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim was "taken by surprise" by the move.

Locsin added that the paperwork for Pemberton's release will be accomplished tonight. — with Virgil Lopez/BM/NB/KG GMA News