MANILA -- The lawyer of Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is convicted in the killing of a Filipina transgender woman, said Tuesday she did not know how President Rodrigo Duterte arrived at his decision to pardon her client.
Lawyer Rowena Flores said she "didn’t really personally apply for any pardon from the President" for Pemberton.
"I didn’t know that any was forthcoming or that anybody filed an application for pardon in his behalf," she told ANC.
Flores said she only learned of the absolute pardon from media reporters.
Asked if this could have been an agreement between Manila and Washington, she said, "I don’t really know what happened.”
The President “has the discretion and the power, authority to grant motu propio or on his own, a pardon,” she said.
Pemberton, she said, was “very happy” when she asked him about the development over the phone.
“He’s like a sort of teenager when it comes to talking and he wouldn’t really tell you long sentences and he wouldn’t discuss in details his emotions, but I could hear that he’s very happy from his voice,” said Flores.
Pemberton has been in prison since the October 2014 killing of Jennifer Laude, whom he met at a bar while on a break from military exercises in the northern city of Olongapo.
A local court ruled last week that Pemberton qualified for early release due to good behavior, but was still being held due to an appeal.
Duterte's pardon clears all legal obstacles to the soldier's release, despite him serving just over half his 10-year sentence.
The President, 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.
Duterte said officials had not accurately measured the jail time served by Pemberton under a law that rewards good behavior with shorter terms.
"You have not treated Pemberton fairly. So I will release him (through) pardon," he said after meeting his cabinet, including the justice minister.
Flores thanked Duterte "for applying the law to Pemberton that in case of doubt, a prisoner should be given the benefit of the doubt.”
“It’s not as if the President was giving extremely special treatment to Pemberton,” she said.
The Laude family lawyer condemned the decision, calling it a "mockery" of the country's justice system.
"This is another injustice -- not only to Jennifer Laude and family but a grave injustice to the Filipino people," Virginia Suarez said in a statement.
"This is a travesty of Philippine sovereignty and democracy."
— With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse