Lawmakers blast Duterte's absolute pardon grant to Pemberton


Posted at Sep 07 2020 11:28 PM | Updated as of Sep 08 2020 02:23 PM

MANILA - Several members of the House of Representatives on Monday questioned President Rodrigo Duterte’s grant of absolute pardon to a US Marine convicted for killing a Filipino transgender woman in 2014.

Rep. Edcel Lagman, in a statement, said that while the president has the constitutional power to pardon prisoners, such act should not be "arbitrary nor capricious."

Lagman also said the Board of Pardons and Parole was created to avoid abuse of the president's power to pardon. However, the said board seemed to have not recommended the presidential pardon of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton.

"It appears that the Board of Pardons and Parole has not recommended the presidential pardon of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton since the Department of Justice, to which the Board is an attached agency, is in the process of preparing a motion for the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court to reconsider its order for the early release of Pemberton erroneously based on good conduct time allowance," he said.

Lagman, likewise, said Duterte should have considered the sentiments of the victim's family before granting pardon to Pemberton.

"The President should have considered the sentiments of the family of the victim, Jennifer Laude, as well as the escalating protests against the projected premature release of Pemberton and upholding Philippine sovereignty by making convicted US military personnel serve their full sentence," he said.

"Moreover, there appears to be no just and valid reason for granting Pemberton an absolute pardon," Lagman added.

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago also condemned Pemberton's pardon, calling it an affront to the sovereignty of the Philippines.

"Not only is this a betrayal of Jennifer Laude's memory and the cries for justice, it is also an affront to our sovereignty and the dignity of the Filipino people," she said in a statement.

The grant of absolute pardon to Pemberton was confirmed by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr., and Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who represented the family of the US soldier's victim, Jennifer Laude, during the trial of the case.

The development comes after Pemberton, who was sentenced in December 2015 to 6 to 10 years in prison for homicide over the slay of Laude, has been declared eligible for early release by an Olongapo court.

But his release was put on hold as the family and some government officials said they are appealing the court's release order.

Laude was killed by Pemberton on Oct. 11, 2014 at a motel in Olongapo City, north of the capital Manila, after finding out that the former had male genitals after an intimate act. A forensic pathologist testified that Laude died of asphyxia.

Pemberton was in the country at the time to participate in the Philippines-US military exercises.

A hotel staff found Laude's body wrapped in a bed sheet, with her head slumped in the toilet bowl.

Pemberton was detained at a custodial facility inside the Philippine military's main camp in Quezon City, based on Manila and Washington's Visiting Forces Agreement.