MANILA – The family of Jennifer Laude has opposed the move of the lawyer of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton for the Olongapo court to declare their plea for the court to reconsider the order for his early release submitted for decision, rejecting it as an attempt to “rush” the proceedings.
Pemberton’s lawyer, Rowena Garcia Flores, had filed a motion on Friday urging the court to declare the motion “submitted for decision,” which simply means no further filings will be entertained.
She also asked the court to forego holding in-court hearings in favor of videoconferencing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But in an opposition filed Saturday, Virginia Suarez, the Laude family’s lawyer, said there are issues “of such grave importance” in their motion that Pemberton “cannot simply rush.”
“Assuming for the sake of argument that the Honorable Court has jurisdiction to issue the now assailed Order of Release on the basis of GCTA, it is presumptuous for Convicted Pemberton to assume that the other parties concerned such as the Public Prosecutor, the Office of the Solicitor General, the Bureau of Corrections will not be filing any opposition or reconsideration to the said Order,” she said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had earlier said the DOJ, through Olongapo City public prosecutors, would file a motion for reconsideration this week citing jurisdictional issues and “divergence in GCTA computation.”
The Olongapo court’s resolution shows the Bureau of Corrections only credited Pemberton with a total of 9 years, 1 month and 15 days in prison service or with 10 months and 15 days left in jail while the court concluded he has served 10 years, 1 month and 10 days in jail, similar to the computation submitted by the Pemberton camp.
Under Art. 99 of the Revised Penal Code, only the director of the Bureau of Corrections, the head of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the warden of the provincial/city/municipal jails can grant good conduct time allowance credits.
But in Pemberton’s case, the court, acting on a motion to compute his GCTA and order his early release, rejected the BuCor’s computation in favor of its own determination.
Suarez said the court should have known that the implementation of the GCTA was suspended as early as August 2019, citing a BJMP document dated April 2020 which suspended processing of GCTA applications pending review of the DOJ of a uniform manual.
The BuCor raised this issue with the court, saying it can only grant presumptive GCTA credits “until after the Unified Manual for the grant of GCTA is signed and approved by the Secretary of Justice and the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government” based on the 2019 implementing rules and regulations of the GCTA Law.
DOJ spokesperson Usec Markk Perete on Monday denied the processing of GCTA was suspended but that agreed that “the award is held in abeyance until the issuance of the Manual” for those who are charged of heinous crimes but eventually convicted of non-heinous crimes.
In a statement Monday, Suarez urged the BuCor and the DOJ to contest the ruling.
“DOJ and BUCOR should have been enraged for they were divested a power that exclusively belongs to them. They should file their respective Motions for Reconsideration. The SolGen (Solicitor General) should likewise file the same or a Petition to Annul the said order,” she said.
In her opposition, Suarez said Pemberton should not even be granted GCTA credits at all because the manner by which she killed Laude in a motel room in 2014 – “drowned and broke her neck by arm lock” – was “odious, grievous and hateful to the senses.”
A murder case was initially filed against Pemberton but the court convicted him of homicide which carries a lesser penalty because he was drunk and acted with passion or obfuscation after finding out Laude had male genitals after performing an intimate act.
But the DOJ has said homicide is not considered a heinous crime under the repealed death penalty law whose definition of a heinous crime it adopted.
Suarez also objected to Flores’ request to hold a videoconference hearing instead of meeting in court.
Flores had cited the difficulty in traveling to Olongapo City from Manila given the numerous border checks requiring quarantine passes, medical certificates and identification cards. She also argued holding an in-court hearing will expose them to risk of contracting the coronavirus.
“Such reason is untenable considering the times she sets motion and physically went to the court for the hearings. Difficulties are given considering the pandemic but these did not prevent her from coming to the court,” Suarez said, also invoking poor internet service on her part.
The Olongapo court is set to hear the motion for reconsideration 1:30 pm Monday.