MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson should stop commenting on the case of a US Marine who killed a Filipina transgender, whose family he formerly represented, the foreigner’s lawyer said Friday.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, who served as counsel for the family of victim Jennifer Laude before his Palace appointment, had earlier said it was "deplorable" that an Olongapo court granted homicide convict US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton early release from prison over good conduct.
“The spokesperson for the President should be stopped from further making statements on this case because he’s a person of power now and everything he says may be construed rightly or wrongly as something that’s coming from the President,” said Pemberton’s lawyer Rowena Garcia-Flores.
“He might be construed as trying to influence the outcome of the motion before the trial court,” she told ANC, referring to the Laude family's reconsideration plea to the release grant.
Flores earlier claimed that Roque previously agreed that Pemberton may be paroled as early as 2017. The Palace official said this was “a lie.”
Roque has yet to respond to requests for comment on the defense counsel's latest statements.
PEMBERTON’S ‘GOOD CONDUCT’
The Olongapo court had allowed Pemberton’s release based on the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law, which “does not distinguish as to nationality,” said Pemberton’s lawyer.
“When people say that it is not applicable to Pemberton, they have no legal basis,” said Flores.
“There is no law which says you have to do something miraculous in order to be entitled to good conduct credits,” she added.
Laude family lawyer Virginia Suarez had said Pemberton, who never apologized for the slay, was ineligible for the GCTA because he did not show exceptional deeds and was detained at a solo facility.
Pemberton has been held at a facility inside Camp Aguinaldo, the Philippine military headquarters in Quezon City, since after his conviction in 2015, per provisions of the Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement.
She said the Laude camp would file a disbarment or ethics case against Flores for allegedly failing to disclose Pemberton’s bid for early release.
Suarez, however, said it was the Laude lawyers who “committed repeated violations” when they “pandered” to the media, LGBT groups, and communists who are against the presence of US soldiers in the country.
Pemberton has no telephone and cannot reach out to the Laude family. His payment of P4.5 million in damages to them last month is “a very good indication that he is apologetic,” said his lawyer.
“If given opportunity, he will apologize,” said Flores.
Pemberton, she added, had no power to choose where he was imprisoned.
The prisons bureau on Thursday put “on hold” the soldier’s release pending the resolution of the appeal from Laude's family.