MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday said the grant of absolute pardon on US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton did not go through the usual process but is within the President's powers.
“Ang only condition required ng Constitution, 'yung bibigyan ng pardon has been convicted by final judgment,” said DOJ spokesperson Undersecretary Markk Perete.
(The only condition required under the Constitution is that the one to be given pardon has been convicted by final judgment.)
While Pemberton did not apply, Perete said it was still within Duterte’s prerogative to grant pardon even without an application.
“While there is a normal procedure, 'yung procedure na 'yung hindi nangangahulugan na hindi puwedeng mag-grant ng pardon ang pangulo on his own,” said Perete.
(While there is a normal procedure, that procedure does not mean that the President cannot grant pardon on his own.)
Duterte granted pardon to Pemberton on Monday, just as the state was about to challenge an Olongapo court's grant for his early release citing good conduct nearly five years since his conviction for the slay of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude.
The pardon came as a surprise even to Pemberton's camp and drew uproar from the Laude family and those opposed to the court's grant of early release.
In an interview on ABS-CBN Teleradyo, Perete said that under the usual process, an application for pardon goes through the Board of Pardons and Parole and then elevated to the DOJ. The DOJ, in turn, endorses a request to the Office of the President.
“But that doesn’t mean na 'yung Pangulo mismo is precluded from granting pardon even without an application. And, in this case, I think walang application na ginawa but the President, based on his appreciation of the fact and the argument, decided to give pardon on his own,” he said.
(But that doesn't mean na 'yung pangulo mismo is precluded from granting pardon even without an application. And, in this case, I think no application was made but the President, based on his appreciation of the fact and argument, decided to give pardon on his own.)
Perete explained that if the requirement under the Constitution was complied with, then there is no legal basis to question the exercise of the grant of pardon.
"I think the proceedings in so far as the case is concerned has been terminated. In fact, Pemberton was convicted," he said.
Duterte, a former prosecutor, is known to have an affinity for soldiers and law enforcers. In explaining his decision, the President said Pemberton had been treated unfairly.
He said officials had not accurately measured the jail time served by Pemberton under a law that rewards good behavior with shortened prison terms.
Pemberton was sentenced in December 2015 to 6 to 10 years in prison for Laude's October 2014 homicide at an Olongapo City hotel. He admitted to choking her after finding out she had male genitals following an intimate act.
The grant of absolute pardon clears Pemberton of criminal liability, restores his civil and political rights, and remits penalties that were imposed for his crime. He had paid over P4 million in damages to the Laude family.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Duterte consulted him before he made the decision to pardon Pemberton. Guevarra said the pardon is an “act of grace” on the part of the chief executive and that he may exercise the plenary power of executive clemency at anytime and under any circumstance.