Will Pemberton walk free soon? Up to the court to decide, says DOJ

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 26 2020 12:13 AM

MANILA -- The lawyer of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was convicted of homicide for the killing of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, has asked an Olongapo court to start computing his good conduct time allowance following the withdrawal of his conviction appeal, which could lead to his early release.

Justice spokesperson Undersecretary Markk Perete confirmed to reporters Tuesday that Pemberton has taken initial steps.

"His counsel already asked the court to compute. I have been informed that the court has started hearing the motion filed by Pemberton's counsel," Perete said in a message exchange.

"I understand the BuCor [Bureau of Corrections] has been asked by the Court to compute credits and allowances due to Pemberton under the GCTA [Good Conduct Time Allowance] law. In the end, however, it will be the Court which will decide the proper computation of those allowances and credits, including resolving the question when his entitlement to any credit or allowance commence," he explained.

Good conduct time allowance is awarded to inmates for good behavior, which could slash years off a prison sentence.

Under the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) released by the Justice department last year, a qualified inmate could get 20 days off in a month during his first 2 years in prison, 23 days off each month for the 3rd to 5th years, and 25 days a month off from the 6th to the 10th years.

Pemberton was sentenced to between 6 to 10 years in prison for Laude's death and has been detained in Camp Aguinaldo since October 2014 when the murder complaint was filed with the prosecutors. 

This means, if he is qualified, he can be credited by as many as 4.4 years off his maximum 10-year sentence by the time he reaches his 6th year in detention. 

GCTA credits apply to preventive imprisonment when a detainee awaits final conviction.

But when exactly will the period for counting his detention start? 

"The start of Pemberton's detention for the purpose of determining his service of sentence is among the issues that will have to be resolved by the Regional Trial Court in Olongapo," Perete said.

Perete also clarified a homicide conviction is not among the heinous crimes disqualified from getting GCTA credits under the new IRR.

The computation of GCTA credits became controversial when rape and murder convict, former Calauan town, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez was almost released last year following the application of GCTA credits. 

The DOJ has since walked back on its interpretation of Republic Act 10592, or the GCTA Law, by excluding those convicted of heinous crimes. This led to the crafting of a new IRR.

The Justice Department, however, has yet to release the uniform manual for the computation of GCTA credits. 

Whether the court will apply GCTA credits even without the uniform manual will have to be decided by the court, too, Perete said.