Pemberton opposes Laude family’s bid to reverse release order

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 04 2020 02:46 PM

US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton enters a court building to face the verdict of a homicide case at the regional trial court in Olongapo City on Dec. 1, 2015. Noel Celis, AFP Photo/File

MANILA – The lawyer of US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton has opposed the move of the family of slain transgender woman Jennifer Laude to reverse the order issued by an Olongapo court allowing his early release over good conduct.

Lawyer Rowena Garcia-Flores filed on Friday an opposition saying that the Laude family’s motion for reconsideration against Pemberton's release failed to explain why the court order should be set aside.

Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74 Judge Roline Ginez-Jabale on Tuesday ordered Pemberton’s release after crediting 1,548 days worth of good conduct time allowance, saying he has served beyond the 10-year maximum penalty for homicide for killing Laude in 2014.

The Laude family, through Jennifer’s sister Marilou Laude-Mahait and lawyer Virginia Suarez, had questioned the basis of the release order, citing the absence of any proof of Pemberton’s behavior, conduct and participation in rehabilitation activities as well as of the required recommendation of the Management, Screening and Evaluation Committee (MSEC) of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

The Laude family argued good conduct refers not just to non-violation of prison rules but also active involvement in rehabilitation programs and participation in other authorized activities, citing the 2017 Uniform Manual on Time Allowance and the 2019 Supreme Court case between inmates of the New Bilibid Prison and former justice chief and now Sen. Leila de Lima.

The Department of Justice is currently revising the uniform manual.

But in her opposition, Flores said the Laude family was only speculating that Pemberton might not have shown good conduct without presenting evidence of his bad conduct.

She noted that BuCor officers who have been guarding Pemberton attested to his good conduct, as shown by the bureau's certification.

Pemberton has been staying in a special facility in Camp Aguinaldo, which the BuCor describes as an extension facility. He has been held there instead of regular prison per provisions of the Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

“[T]he BuCor’s certification of good conduct carries with it the presumption of regularity that Private Complainant failed to rebut. Private complainant’s speculative and personal opinion of what ought to constitute good conduct cannot overcome such presumption,” she said.

Flores also questioned the legal personality of the Laude family to file the motion, arguing that the only interest of a private complainant in a criminal case is with respect to civil liability arising from the crime. And since they have been paid, they have lost the legal personality to participate in the criminal proceedings.

According to the release order issued by the Olongapo court, the Laude family received P4.65 million in damages on August 25.

Flores also pointed out that by opposing the grant of good conduct time allowance to Pemberton, the Laude family seeks to treat Pemberton differently from 20,000 other inmates released on good conduct, a violation of the equal protection clause.

Homicide is not a heinous crime and Pemberton is neither a recidivist nor a habitual delinquent – some of the grounds for exclusion from the new Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law, she said.

“The GCTA Law, which amended some provisions of the Revised Penal Code, is a law of general application. It does not make any distinction as to who is entitled to GCTAs on the basis of nationality or even the place where a person is detained or serving sentence,” said the lawyer.

“He cannot be deprived of GCTA credits by reason of the allegedly comfortable jail where he served his prison sentence because such place was agreed upon between the governments of the Philippines and the United States,” she added.

Another lawyer for the Laude family, Rommel Bagares, earlier said Pemberton should not benefit from the GCTA law until a treaty is entered into between the US and the Philippines specifically on the grant of GCTA credits as it is not covered by the VFA.

The hearing on the motion for reconsideration is set on Monday in Olongapo City.