The Olongapo City Regional Trial Court has ordered the early release of American soldier Joseph Scott Pemberton, who had been convicted for killing transgender female Jennifer Laude in 2014.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who had served as legal counsel for the Laude family, on Wednesday slammed the decision.
Laude’s family has asked the trial court to reconsider the release order.
They said there is no proof of the supposed good behavior of Pemberton, who is detained alone in a cell at Camp Aguinaldo, instead of regular prison, per provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.
“As former private prosecutor for the Laude family, I deplore the short period of imprisonment meted on Pemberton who killed a Filipino under the most gruesome manner,” Roque said.
“Laude’s death personifies the death of Philippine sovereignty and the light penalty imposed on Pemberton proves that despite the President’s independent foreign policy, that Americans continue to have the status of conquering colonials in our country,” he said.
The family also questioned the absence of proof of a recommendation from the Management, Screening and Evaluation Committee of the Bureau of Corrections for Pemberton, a Lance Corporal with the US Marines.
“His conduct was never put to test as he never joined other convicts. Had he served his sentence in National Bilibid, maybe his application for good conduct would have some basis,” they said in a motion for reconsideration.
In an order dated September 1, Judge Roline Ginez-Abalde granted the partial motion for reconsideration of Pemberton and ordered the Bureau of Corrections to release him from detention “unless he is being held for some other lawful cause or causes.”
The judge stressed that Pemberton is “entitled to be released for he had already served the 10-year maximum of his penalty.”
Although the US soldier has so far served five years into his prison term of six to 10 years, Ginez-Abalde ordered Pemberton’s release by taking into account the good conduct time allowances (GCTA) he had accumulated while being detained.
The lower court noted that Pemberton had served a total of 2,142 days and earned 1,548 GCTAs. Taken together, this amounts to 3,690 days, or 10 years, one month, and 10 days — more than the 10-year maximum penalty imposed on him, the court said.
Besides, the RTC said that Pemberton has already made a “full payment” of millions of pesos in damages to Laude’s heirs.
In August 2017, Roque said they “would have liked” to have Pemberton sentenced to the maximum 12 years since “passion and intoxication do not mitigate the deliberate and brutal act of Jennifer’s murder.”
Roque also said at the time that Pemberton “cannot be cited for good behavior when he has not been remorseful.”
The Supreme Court recently granted Pemberton’s withdrawal of his petition to reverse his conviction. The case has been declared “closed and terminated.”
Pemberton was convicted in 2015 for the killing of Laude, who was found dead in the bathroom of a Celzone Lodge room in Olongapo City on October 11, 2014.
The American’s conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
Laude, then 26 years old, was last seen with Pemberton entering the room with Laude’s friend Mark Clarence “Barbie” Gelviro after having drinks at a nearby bar where they met. Gelviro later left the two alone.
Pemberton and Laude agreed to have sex, but the American was angered after discovering that she was not biologically female.
Laude was found dead, with her head inside a toilet bowl, in the bathroom of a Celzone Lodge room on October 11, 2014.