MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte showed that he cannot stand up to foreign powers by pardoning US Marine Lance Corporal Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton convicted of killing Filipina transgender Jennifer Laude, the lawyer of her family said Tuesday.
Duterte gave absolute pardon to Pemberton just as the justice department planned to question the early release that a court granted to him due to good conduct credits.
“Ang usapin ay dinala mismo ni Pemberton sa korte pagkatapos ika-cut short niya lahat ng ito at bibigyan niya ng pardon,” said Laude family lawyer Virgie Suarez.
(The issue was brought by Pemberton himself to the court, but Duterte cut this all this short and gave a pardon.)
"May problema sa kung paano nag-iisip ang ating, si Duterte—hindi niya kayang lumaban sa US o sa Tsina,” she told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo.
(There is a problem with how Duterte thinks—he cannot stand up to the US or China.)
Pemberton was imprisoned at a “privileged holding facility” and had only refrained from throwing fits, which is not an exemplary good deed that merits his release, she said.
He was pardoned as the Philippines prepared to purchase $2 billion worth of military equipment from the US, said the lawyer.
“Nagbigay ng pardon nang walang basehan… Basta nangyari ang lahat ng ito dahil lang si Pemberton ay isang Amerikano at sundalo,” Suarez said.
(The pardon was granted without basis. This all happened only because Pemberton is an American and a soldier.)
“Ipagpapalit ni Duterte ang ating demokrasya, ang ating soberanya, ang ating hustisya para lang sa Amerika,” she said.
(Duterte will give up our democracy, sovereignty and justice just for America.)
Manila, she said, should have an independent foreign policy in which leaders view the country as equal to its neighbors.
“Pero lagi nang kung para kang tuta na sumusunod sa Tsina, sa Amerika at sa iba pang bansa, nasaan na? Kawawa naman ang bansang Pilipinas, kawawa naman ang mamamayang Pilipino,” said Suarez.
(If you are always like a lapdog obeying China, America and other countries, where will we be? The Philippines, the Filipinos will suffer.)
“Marami pang Jennifer Laude ang maaaring sumunod hanggang ganyan ang ating pag-iisip, hangga’t laging ang binibigyan natin ng proteksyon ay ang banyagang interes,” she added.
(There could be many more Jennifer Laudes as long as our mentality is like that, while we give protection to foreign interest.)
Duterte's pardon clears all legal obstacles to Pemberton’s release, despite him serving just over half his 10-year sentence.
Duterte, a former prosecutor, said in a televised speech that it was his personal decision to pardon Pemberton after learning about his case in the news.
"You have not treated Pemberton fairly. So I will release him (through) pardon," he said after meeting his cabinet, including the justice minister.
Duterte said officials had not accurately measured the jail time served by Pemberton under a law that rewards good behavior with shorter terms.
The pardon has renewed anti-American sentiment in the Southeast Asian nation, where groups have long called for the removal of US military presence.
Renato Reyes, leader of the leftist group Bayan, criticized the president's remarks and condemned Pemberton's "special treatment."
"If Filipinos want pardon... they need to undergo a long process. The American soldier that killed a Filipino was given an express lane," he tweeted.
The pardon came despite Duterte shifting away from the US to seek closer relations with China since assuming power in 2016. — With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse