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Duterte Says He Pardoned U.S. Marine on 'Presumption' of Good Character

The pardon could not be questioned, he said.
by Joel Guinto
Sep 7, 2020
Photo/s: Jerome Ascano

(UPDATE) President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday he pardoned a U.S. Marine convicted of killing a transgender Filipina in the interest of fairness. The President said it was not the serviceman's fault if good conduct credits for early release could not be verified officially due to his detention circumstances.

Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton has been detained in a Philippine military camp since late 2014, pursuant to the Visiting Forces Agreement between Manila and Washington. His detention did not change even after his conviction for the homicide of Jennifer Laude the following year.

The VFA gives the U.S. custody of its servicemen who are accused of violating Philippine laws "if they so request." Because of this, Pemberton was not jailed in Olongapo City, where the crime was committed. He admitted to killing Laude at a motel, whom he accused of not being fortright about her sexuality.

Pemberton applied for good conduct credits, however, his military guards are incapable of computing such points for him, Duterte said.

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"Sino magsabi ngayon na noong detinado siya, nagkalat siya sa loob? Wala kasing listahan. Wala naman nakalagay doon, kasi wala talaga," Duterte said. The U.S. serviceman is "not required to make a record of his behavior."

Duterte Pardons U.S. Marine in Filipina Transgender's Killing: DFA
U.S. Marine Who Killed 'Ganda' Wants Early Release From Jail Renewing Furor Over VFA

The pardon could not be questioned, he said. "Ito ang tingin ko sa kaso: We have not treated Pemberton fairly."

"It is not the fault of Pemberton na hindi na-compute. We should allow him the good character presumption. Wala naman nagreport na Marines na nagwala siya," he said.

"I am not favoring anybody. Neither Pemberton nor the family. Alam mo, itong gobyerno, may konting ano diyan dapa," he said.

The Laude family's lawyer, Virginia Suarez, called the pardon "revolting" and an injustice to the entire country.

There is so much disrespect in the manner by which Jennifer was killed -- reflective of the disrespect the U.S. has for the Philippines' democracy and sovereignty. The pardon given to Pemberton is a mockery of our judiciary and legal system, too," Suarez said.

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