Pemberton release on hold
Palace calls out RTC judge for ‘judicial overreach’; victim’s sister files MR
Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton has been in prison since October 2014 for killing Jennifer Laude, whom he met at a bar while on a break from military exercises in Olongapo City. An Olongapo court ruled on Tuesday that Pemberton qualified for early release due to good behavior while detained in a special jail at a special military facility inside Camp Aguinaldo. He has served half of a 10-year sentence for homicide. But his release has now been suspended after a sister of the victim challenged the ruling in a filing that asked the court to reconsider, Bureau of Corrections spokesman Gabriel Chaclag said. Pemberton’s lawyer Rowena Flores pressed for his immediate release. “Every day that he stays in jail is a violation of his constitutional right,” Flores said. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, a lawyer who represented the Laude family during the trial, said the court had committed “judicial overreach” and that the government would also file a motion for reconsideration. “Do not release him yet. The decision is not yet final and executory,” Roque said. Roque said he has talked to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who mentioned to him the government’s plans to appeal the latest court decision. Pemberton’s conviction fell under the Philippines and United States’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which covers the legal liability of US troops taking part in military operations in the Southeast Asian country. President Rodrigo Duterte has shifted away from the US to pursue greater economic cooperation with China since assuming power in 2016. In February, he notified Washington that the Philippines would terminate the VFA for alleged US interference in his war on drugs. But Manila later put the abrogation on hold, citing “political and other developments in the region.” Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said the Bureau of Corrections would not process Pemberton’s release papers until the motion filed by Laude’s family has been settled. Perete’s statement scotched speculation that Pemberton had been released from detention in compliance with the order issued by Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 74 Judge Roline Ginez Jabalde, who directed the corrections bureau to release him. Pemberton was sentenced to spend 6-10 years in prison after he was convicted of homicide for killing transgender Laude. Considering deductions of his prison term on account of his Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA), he has already exceeded the maximum prison sentence. The court order said during Pemberton’s preventive suspension, he served 405 days in prison, and another 1,737 days during his service of sentence, for a total of 2,142 days. Adding the GCTA credits he obtained during his preventive suspension numbering 260 days and 1,288 days during his service of sentence, that totaled 1,548 days. His actual time served of 2,142 days and his GCTA of 1,548 comes to 3,690 days. “Pemberton has a total accumulated time served with entitlement of GCTA of 10 years, one month, and 10 days, which is more than the 10 years maximum penalty imposed by this court and affirmed by the Court of Appeals. Thus, he is now entitled to be released for he had already served the 10 years maximum of his penalty,” the trial court said. The court also said Pemberton was able to satisfy his civil liability by completing the payment of P4.6 million to Laude’s heirs. But Laude’s sister Marilou Laude-Mahait filed a motion for reconsideration and asked the Olongapo RTC to set aside its order, and instead issue a new order denying Pemberton’s early release, and for him to complete his service of sentence.