MANILA - Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday said the early release of a US Marine convicted of killing a Filipino transgender is setting a bad precedent.
“Sa akin po, masamang precedent ito kasi ang pinapadala nating mensahe kapag ikaw ay Amerikano at pinatay mo nang parang animal ang Pilipino halos hindi ka mapaparusahan,” Roque said in an interview on ABS-CBN Teleradyo.
Roque, the former private prosecutor for the family of Jennifer Laude, said US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Pemberton's plea for release under the good conduct time allowance rule (GCTA), which slashes jail time for convicts showing good behavior while in incarceration, is marked by injustice.
“Hindi po makatarungan 'yan. Pinatay ni Pemberton si Laude na parang animal si Laude. Nilublob ang ulo sa inodoro hanggang malunod tapos tinalian pa ang leeg. Hindi po tama na ang karumal-dumal na krimen na 'yan ay mapaparusahan lamang ng 5 taong pagkakakulong,” he said.
On Tuesday, the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74 granted Pemberton's plea for release after finding he has served beyond his 10-year prison sentence under the GCTA.
In an order dated September 1 and released Wednesday, Judge Roline Ginez-Jabale ordered the Bureau of Corrections to release Pemberton from prison unless if he is being held for some other lawful cause.
“Yung allowance for good conduct ibinibigay upon recommendation ng Bureau of Corrections. Eh wala naman ganyang rekomendasyon ibinibigay ng kahit sino,” he said.
Pemberton has been held at a facility at Camp Aguinaldo, instead of regular prison, per provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.
“Ang taga kulong niya sa Aguinaldo, hindi naman taga Bureau of Corrections. Sino nagrekomenda? Bakit ang korte, moto propio gumalaw? Dapat may rekomendasyon. Hindi naman alam ng hukuman kung ano naging asta ni Pemberton,” he said.
By the Olongapo court’s computation, Pemberton has served 2,142 days in detention plus 1,548 days of GCTA grant or a total of 3,690 days or just a few days over 10 years, beyond the maximum penalty for homicide.
“Pangalawa, bakit allowance for good conduct nga, nag-iisa siya. Binibigay lang 'yan pag marami ang preso para makontrol ng awtoridad 'yung mga nakakulong. Pero bakit kung nag-iisa ka bakit may allowance for good conduct?" said Roque.
Roque also pointed out that Pemberton was held under the jurisdiction of the US and not by the Philippines.
“Bakit magbibigay ng allowanace for good conduct samantalang ang may hawak sa kaniya habang nililitis na mahigit kumulang isang taon ay mga Amerikano,” he said.
There is also no proof that Pemberton was indeed in prison in Aguinaldo as no one has seen him there.
“At sigurado ako, kung nandoon man siya, hindi siya nag-iisa, napakadaming sundalong Pilipino at Amerikano ang nakakahalubilo niya dahil ang laki-laki ng complex na ginawa nila para sa isang tao lamang,” said Roque.
Pemberton was sentenced to 6 to 10 years in prison for homicide over the October 11, 2014 slay of Laude at an Olongapo City motel.
Laude's body was discovered inside the bathroom of Celzone Hotel in Barangay West Tapinac, Olongapo City. Hotel staff found Laude's body wrapped in a bed sheet, with her head slumped in the toilet bowl.
“Ito ay homicide hindi pwedeng ayusin. Dapat sana binigyan siya ng maximum na kaniyang sentensya o kaya minimum, kasi hindi naman umabot ng minimum…5 years pa lang hindi pa niya nakukumpleto 'yung 6 years man lang…isang buwan short of ika-anim na taon 'yan,” he said.