A U.S. Marine whom President Rodrigo Duterte pardoned for killing a transgender Filipina six years ago saw the start of his release process Friday, after his custody was transferred to the Bureau of Immigration.
The case of Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, who killed Jennifer Laude in a Olongapo City motel in October 2014 has sparked outrage among rights groups and government critics and again put the spotlight on military ties between Manila and Washington.
The Bureau of Corrections said it transferred Pemberton's custody to the Bureau of Immigration. Pemberton served time in Camp Aguinaldo instead of in a regular prison because the U.S. Embassy in Manila invoked its right under the Visiting Forces Agreement.
The VFA, which guides the conduct of American soldiers in the Philippines for annual war games, grants criminal jurisdiction to Filipino authorities. However, if the U.S. so decides, it can choose the detention facility for its men who are accused of or convicted of breaking local laws.
Duterte said late Monday that the pardon could not be questioned, "Ito ang tingin ko sa kaso: We have not treated Pemberton fairly."
Pemberton applied for good conduct credits. Critics said such could not be granted when the U.S. Marine served time apart from other prisoners. Duterte said it was not Pemberton's fault if the credits could not be computed because of how he was detained. In a normal prison, jail personel are in charge of good conduct scores, which are absent in a military detention.