MANILA-- Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Friday his statements on the pardon of US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton should be contextualized after Panelo was criticized for describing the case as "homicide lang."
Panelo was slammed for his remarks comparing President Rodrigo Duterte's grant of absolute pardon for Pemberton to former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III's grant of pardon to Robert Burton, a British national who was convicted for drug trafficking in 1993.
"Si Presidente Aquino may pinardon na Amerikano (sic) at alam mo yung crime niya? Drugs. Oh eto nga homicide lang eh," Panelo said during the Thursday episode of his show "Counterpoint."
(President Aquino pardoned a [British national] and his crime was drugs. This one is only homicide.)
On Friday, Panelo explained that his remarks should be viewed in consideration of heinous crimes in the Philippines.
"Bakit ko sinabi na homicide lang? Kasi ’yun pong drugs kung saan ’yung British nga na pinardon ni PNoy, ’yung krimen niya ay heinous crime at convicted and affirmed ng Korte Suprema," he said in his show.
(Why did I say that it was just homicide? It's because the drug-related crime of the British national pardoned by PNoy is considered heinous and he was convicted. The decision was also affirmed by the Supreme Court.)
"Kung ikukumpara mo homicide, hindi naman heinous crime. ’Yun ang konteksto nu’n pero di ko sinasabi na tama ’yung ginawa," he added.
(If you compare that with homicide, it's not a heinous crime. But I'm not saying that what he did was right.)
Under the Philippines' now-abolished death penalty law, heinous crimes included the possession and distribution of illegal drugs. Homicide, however, is excluded.
Pemberton was convicted of homicide in 2015 after he killed Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude on Oct. 11, 2014 at a motel in Olongapo City, north of the capital Manila, after finding out that Laude had male genitals after an intimate act.
Her body was found wrapped in a bedsheet with her head slumped in the toilet bowl. A forensic pathologist testified that Laude died of asphyxia. Pemberton admitted to choking her.
The US soldier is up for release after President Duterte granted him absolute pardon earlier this week.
Panelo reiterated that the grant of absolute pardon is part of the President's powers as he urged the public to move on.
"Hayaan niyo na ’yan (Let it be). Let's move forward, move on," Panelo said.